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Evelyn Sedelies

Working from home

Working from Home – How to Prevent Pain

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The most common complaint in my clinic now is neck and/or back pain due to working from home since the onset of the pandemic.

No matter how well a workstation is designed, we are not designed to sit or stand for prolonged periods of time.

In this Blog you will learn why your office space may be causing you pain and what to do about it.  With a few simple modifications to your work space and work habits you can help prevent the onset of pain from working from home.

If you are already experiencing pain from working from home acupuncture treatments can rapidly relieve your pain along with following the easy steps below.

Why is working from home causing you pain?

Research shows that repetitive motion, poor posture and staying in the same position can cause or worsen musculoskeletal disorders.

1. Repetitive Motion

Repetitive motion is carrying out repetitive tasks for long periods without suitable rest breaks.  Examples of repetitive motion at your desk is; typing, using your computer mouse and writing.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common repetitive injury from working at a desk.  The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in your palm where a nerve (median nerve) runs through it.  When the passageway narrows due to swelling from injury the nerve is compressed.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are: 

  • Tingling and numbness in palm, thumb, or first two fingers, especially during the night or in the morning.
  • Aching pain in the wrist and hand, with occasional shooting pains up the forearm.
  • Weakness in the hands and fingers and trouble gripping or holding objects.

How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

  1. Avoid bending wrists for long periods.
  2. Avoid leaning on the heel of your hand or your wrist.
  3. Reduce your force.  Strike the keys on the key board lightly.
  4. Relax your grip.  For prolonged handwriting, use a big pen with an oversized, soft grip adapter.
  5. Change your computer mouse and keyboard.  Many people benefit from using a split/V-shaped ergonomic keyboard. If possible, try one for at least a week.  Make sure that your computer mouse is comfortable and doesn’t strain your wrist.
  6. Improve your posture.  Incorrect posture rolls shoulders forward, shortening your neck and shoulder muscles and compressing nerves in your neck and shoulders.  This can affect your wrists, fingers and hands and can cause neck pain.  Start with arranging your work space using the ergonomic guidelines below.
  7. Take short, frequent breaks. Alternate tasks when possible.
  8. Do the below stretching exercises every 20-25 minutes.  Do not do any stretch or movement that is uncomfortable or painful.

Prayer Stretch

The prayer stretch
  1. Start with your palms together in front of your chest just below your chin.
  2. Slowly lower your hands toward your waistline, keeping your hands close to your stomach and your palms together, until you feel a mild to moderate stretch under your forearms.
  3. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Wrist Flexor Stretch

The wrist flexor stretch
  1. Extend your arm in front of you with your palm up.
  2. Bend your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor.
  3. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm.
  4. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Wrist Extensor Stretch

The wrist extensor stretch
  1. Extend your arm in front of you with your palm down.
  2. Bend your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor.
  3. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm.
  4. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

  • Acupuncture can provide immediate relief and treat CTS
  • Ice wrist and palm to reduce swelling
  • Wear a wrist splint at night to keep the wrist straight
  • Include the above wrist stretches in your breaks

2. Poor Posture

Poor posture leads to chronic strain and discomfort.  When working at your desk with an incorrect posture you develop excessive tightness in your shoulders and chest with weakness in your neck and mid-back. This combination of weakness and tightness forces your shoulders to roll inward and your head to project forward.

This postural problem, known as Upper Crossed Syndrome is exceptionally common in computer workstation users.

Believe it or not, the average human head weighs around 5kg or 11lbs!  That’s more than most new-born babies and all that is balanced on just 7 vertebrae in your neck and supported by about 20 muscles that are responsible for moving your head around and keeping that weight in place.

With the head projected forward significantly more effort is required from the muscles and joints of the neck trying to hold the head in that forward position.  Research has showed that by tilting the head forward, the forces acting on the head increase dramatically.  This effort results in strain of the muscles of your neck and upper back that becomes uncomfortable and may also lead to neck pain, upper back pain, headaches, TMJ pain, cervical nerve compression and ultimately arthritis.

text neck posture

This is what most of us look like when we are using our mobile phones!

How To Improve Your Posture or Prevent Upper Crossed Syndrome

Correction of Upper Crossed Syndrome is accomplished by stretching the tight muscles, strengthening weak muscles, and modifying your workstation.  Below are strengthening and stretching exercises for Upper Crossed Syndrome.

Cervical Retractions – Perform 1 set of 10 reps, 3 times per day.

Stand with your back against a wall.  Your buttocks and shoulder blades should be in contact with the wall, heels 1-2 inches from the wall.  Focus your vision on a spot on the wall to avoid neck flexion (head tilted down) or extension (head tilted up).

Tuck your chin to make a “double chin” until the base of your skull contacts the wall.  Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and then relax.

Return to the starting position.

To progress, place a finger on your chin, and apply backwards pressure at end range. Imagine that your head is on drawer slides. Keep your mouth closed.

Deep Neck Flexion – Perform 1 set of 10 reps, 3 times per day

Lie on your back with your head supported.

Perform a “chin tuck” by retracting your head to create a double chin.

Lift your head, bringing chin toward your chest without lifting shoulders, as though you are looking at your toes.

Hold this position for 3-4 seconds.

Lower your head and relax.

          Keep your teeth apart during exercise to decrease straining at the jaw.

Levator Stretch – Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 times per day, each side

While sitting, grasp the seat of your chair with your left hand.

Rotate your head toward the right and look downward toward the floor.

Place your right hand over the top of your head and gently pull down and diagonally in the direction you are looking.

Against the resistance of your hand, contract your neck in an attempt to push your head backward/diagonally from the direction you are looking for seven seconds.

Relax and gently pull your head further toward the floor to increase the stretch.

Lock into this new position, and make sure that you continue to keep your head rotated in the direction that you are pulling.

Trapezius Stretch- Sitting – Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 times per day, each side.

While sitting, reach down with your right arm, grasping the bottom of a chair for stability.

While looking straight ahead, place your left hand on top of your head, and gently pull your head sideways toward the left.

Against the resistance of your arms, attempt to bring your right ear and right shoulder together for seven seconds.

Relax and stretch further toward the left. “Lock-in” to each new position, and do not allow any slack.

Pectoral Stretch – Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 times.

Stand in the middle of a door frame (door open)

Place palms, forearms and elbows on the door frame on either side.

Lean forward to stretch your chest muscles. Hold for 7 seconds.

YTWL Scapular Depression – Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 times.

Stand with your straight arms raised above your head in a “Y” position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and downward throughout the following sequence of movements.

Lower your straightened arms to shoulder level, into a “T” position.

Next bend your elbows so that your fingers are pointing straight up while slightly lowering your elbows to make a “W”.

Finally, while keeping your elbows bent 90 degrees, lower your arms to your sides so that your elbows are touching your ribs to form an “L” on each side and squeeze.

Hold each position for 1-2 seconds.

Low Row – Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 times.

Attach the center of an elastic exercise band to a door knob or other sturdy object in front of you.

Grasp one end of the band in each hand and with straight arms at your side, stretch the band backwards.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together and downward throughout the following sequence of movements.  Keep your palms facing backward and arms pointed straight down throughout the exercise.

Return to neutral and repeat

Brugger with a band – Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 times

Begin sitting or standing with an elastic exercise band wrapped and secured around your palms.

Begin with your arms at your side, elbows bent, forearm’s pointing forward.

Move your hands apart from each other to maximally stretch the band while simultaneously rotating your palms out, straightening your arms, and pinching your shoulder blades together as your hands move behind your hips.

Return to the start position and repeat.

Work Station Ergonomics for Good Posture

Work station ergonomics can help a person be more comfortable at work.  It can reduce stress on the body and reduce injuries caused by prolonged awkward positions and repetitive tasks at a workstation.

Laptop computers are not ergonomically designed for prolonged use with the monitor and keyboard so close together. For prolonged use it’s recommended to add a separate monitor and/or keyboard. The laptop can be placed on books so that the top of the screen is at eye level, then use an external keyboard so that your elbows can rest at 90 degrees by your side.

3. Prolonged Stationary Sitting or Standing

Working at a computer often involves very few changes in body position.  This lack of movement can lead to muscle pain and strain.  It doesn’t take long to develop muscle pain and strain, the process has already started at the first sign of discomfort.

Even if you’re comfortable, you should never sit in one position for a long time.  Every 20-25 minutes take a short break to stretch.

Also look away from your screen occasionally and focus your eyes on an object far away to reduce eye strain.

Stretches For Your Breaks – Every 20-25 minutes

Don’t forget to add the wrist stretches above into your routine.

Click on this link if you would like to download this poster (sourced from Barbre Ergonomics) and print it for your workstation.

In the meantime enjoy all the perks of working from home; hanging out with your furry friend, dressing comfortably, avoiding rush hour traffic and enjoying your morning coffee in your favourite cozy spot at home. 

Wishing you all safe and joyous days ahead.

Alfie and I working from home.

Liver Stagnation – The Start To Disease

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When the function of the Liver is harmonious, there is never stress or tension.

Too much fat, chemicals, intoxicants and processed food all disrupt the hundreds of intricate biochemical processes of the Liver.

The Liver is also easily damaged by chronic emotional imbalances such as greed, anger and resentment.

Unresolved emotional issues are stored physically as residues in the Liver – the release of emotional obstructions unlocks and releases these residues.  Therefore, as you improve your diet it is necessary to release stored emotions.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are several Liver Syndromes (liver disorders/diseases), all of them start with Liver Stagnation and can develop into more harmful diseases.  All Liver Syndromes affect the whole body in various ways.



The Liver has many important functions, one of which is ensuring the smooth movement of Qi throughout the body.  The basic disorder of Liver Stagnation is the obstruction of the free flow of qi energy.

If the flow of energy is impeded ALL physiological processes in every organ and every part of the body is affected.

Another important function of the Liver is storing Blood.  Liver Blood is very important to nourish the sinews (muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage etc), allowing physical exercise.  The Liver also stores Blood for the Uterus, ensuring a regular menstruation.

All the major organs of the body house a psychic aspect of our selves.  The Liver houses the Hun (the Ethereal Soul).  The role of the Hun is very important to our mental and spiritual life by providing the Shen (Mind) with inspiration, creativity, life dreams and a sense of direction in life.

Signs of Liver Stagnation mark the early signs of disease.


Physical Signs:

  • Nervous system disorders
  • Allergies
  • Lumps, swellings, lump felt in the throat
  • Distended abdomen, chest or breasts
  • Chronic indigestion
  • Menstrual problems, PMS
  • Stress, neck and back tension
  • Fatigue
  • Rigid, inflexible body
  • Eye problems
  • Impure blood, skin disorders (such as acne, eczema, boils)
  • Finger or toenail disorders
  • Slow rising in the morning
  • Muscular pain
  • Tendon problems
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Excessive sighing

Emotional Signs:

  • Emotional repression
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Resentment
  • Impatience
  • Edginess
  • Depression
  • Moodiness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Emotional attachments
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Mental rigidity
  • Negativity



Emotional repression is at the root of Liver Stagnation, resolving resentment, anger and frustration is essential.

Stagnation requires movement and exercise.  That is why so often we feel better for exercising.  Expressing yourself creatively or artistically may be required if your Hun has become stagnant.

At least 20 minutes a day of deep relaxation is essential for clearing up Liver Stagnation.

Avoid rigid rules or guidelines around diet, lifestyle and exercise.  Avoid “shoulds”.  It is essential to incorporate into your day something fun or playful, even if it means watching a funny movie.  “Laughter is the best medicine”.

Acupuncture is a very fast and effective means to freeing the energy of the Liver.



  • Foods high in saturated fats, the majority come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products
  • Large quantities of nuts and seeds
  • Hydrogenated fats, found in margarine, fast foods, commercial baked goods (donuts, cookies, crackers), processed foods, and fried foods
  • Poor quality oils, such as processed seed oils (soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil).  Choose cold pressed fresh oils.  Avocado and coconut oil can be used for cooking (some oils at high heat release free radicals that can harm the body)
  • Hot spices, alcohol, intoxicants and refined concentrated sweeteners


  • Kelp and other seaweeds
  • Vitamin B6, B12 and zinc (they are abundantly found in a varied diet of whole foods)
  • Chlorophyll foods (green vegetables, spirulina, chlorella)
  • Pungent herbs and spices; turmeric, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, marjoram, cumin, fennel, dill, ginger, black pepper, horseradish, rosemary, mints, saffron, lemon balm, all members of the onion family
  • Nuts; chestnut, pine nut
  • Vegetables; cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, watercress, turnip root, beets, taro root, mustard greens, brussel sprouts.
  • Raw Foods; sprouted grains, beans and seeds
  • Fruits; strawberry, peach, cherry


Short Term Remedy:

1 tsp of apple cider vinegar in some water with a little honey

Take while experiencing stress/tension/depression, 3 times daily

Use unrefined apple cider, brown rice, rice wine or other quality vinegars.


Do You Have Back Pain?

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Back pain is a very common complaint and one that I treat daily in my clinic.  The source of back pain is extremely varied, but all my patients have this in common; pain and a disruption to their work and lifestyle.

If you have back pain and it’s affecting your day to day activities, sleep, mood and recreational activities, Traditional Chinese Medicine and classical acupuncture can truly treat your back pain to get you back to work and doing what you love to do FAST.

With classical acupuncture and a treatment plan that may involve Chinese herbs, some lifestyle modifications and simple homework your back pain can be treated and a reoccurrence of your back pain can be prevented.  Towards the end of this Blog I explain how classical acupuncture actually heals your back.

Acupuncture not only treats your pain but also treats the source of your pain.


  • 50% of all current drug addicts get hooked when they are prescribed Western pain medications
  • Every 18 minutes an American dies from an overdose of pain medications
  • Pain is an epidemic and western medicine does not have many solutions
  • Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide
  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work
  • Back pain is the second most common reason for visiting the doctor
  • Pain medication is used to manage pain, it does not totally relieve it or cure it.

For most medical doctors and pain clinics a pain level of 7/10 is expected to drop to a 4/10 when a patient uses pain medication.  If I cannot get such a patient with a pain level of 7/10 below a four after their FIRST treatment with me I feel I have failed in my treatment that day.

As an acupuncturist treating pain is one of the most rewarding and most important diseases to treat.  Acupuncture can treat any type of pain (chronic, acute, nerve pain, inflammation, numbness and tingling, radiating pain, stiffness etc) anywhere in the body (organ, bone, skin, joint etc).  Of course there are exceptions such as genetic disorders and cancer etc, but those are not the norm for the majority of pain disorders seen in the clinic.


Muscle strain or ligament sprain

Commonly from heavy lifting, a sudden awkward movement, poor physical condition or posture that puts chronic strain on the muscles and ligaments of the back.

Disc problem

Often from poor lifting technique and turning and twisting whilst lifting.

Discs act like “cushions” between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine.  When a disc is injured the soft material in the disc can bulge or rupture placing pressure on a nerve (that is exiting the spine) which will cause pain.

As people age over time the disc wears down and no longer effectively “cushions” forces.  In a degenerative disc forces instead are transferred to the disc wall that can lead to a bulging or ruptured disc.


Arthritis is degeneration of the joints in the spine.  As the cartilage between the joints slowly breaks down inflammation and pain develops.

Joint dysfunction  

The low back area consists of the lower spine (lumbar), sacrum and pelvis.  These bones are connected by joints that can cause pain if there is too much or too little motion of them.



Acupuncture stimulates nerves and subsequently triggers a response from the brain.  As a result acupuncture can affect change in all systems (circulatory, respiratory, digestive etc) and areas (back, knee, shoulder, neck etc) of the body.

Acupuncture stimulates the body to increase blood flow to the site of pain and stimulates the body to release natural painkillers.

Increased blood flow facilitates and hastens the natural healing process.  This increased blood flow brings a host of substances that control the damage, repair the injury and removes wastes that cause pain and inflammation.

Acupuncture also simulates the release of endorphins.  Endorphins are natural pain killers produced by your body. They work by binding to receptors in your brain to block the perception of pain.  Acupuncture is very effective at treating pain and thereby reducing your need for pharmaceutical pain killers.

Acupuncture treats the whole body, not just your pain.  This means I address underlying health issues that may be contributing to your back problem AND I treat the source of your back pain.  By doing this the reoccurrence of your back pain can be prevented.

Classical acupuncture can actually heal muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and nerves – the actual root cause of your back pain.


Traditional Chinese Medicine and classical acupuncture is a complete system of medicine.  Acupuncture is the best modality for treating back pain but depending on the person and because I like to treat the whole person I often incorporate into your treatment plan:

  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Dietary recommendations
  • Chinese herbs
  • Stretches and exercises

In addition to classical acupuncture I may use; tui na massage, gua sha, cupping, moxibustion, electro-acupuncture stimulation and ear seeds to treat your back pain.  All of these are used to heal your back, eliminate your pain AND treat any underlying health conditions you may have.

I mostly practice distal acupuncture, a classical style of acupuncture with great clinical efficacy.  I place needles away from your area of pain or discomfort.  My patients experience enhanced benefits from this style of acupuncture as they can relax and enjoy their treatments more as they feel the immediate relief of their pain.  They also feel much more involved and proactive during their treatment as I rely on their feedback to fine tune my treatments to further relieve their pain.  Look out for my future Blog on distal classical acupuncture, the theory and the results are astonishing.

Any type of chronic pain can be a profoundly life changing – and often lonely – experience.  If this is you, please come and see me, I’m Evelyn, and I practise in Canmore and Calgary.

Exterior and Interior Disease – Understanding COVID-19 From A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

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Writing a blog is wonderful way to stay connected to my patients, and anybody else who is reading this, whilst in self-isolation due to the Covid-19 virus mandates.

I would like to introduce to you in a very simple way, cold and flu from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) concept.  And provide simple daily tips to increase your immunity to prevent a cold or flu and how to treat MILD signs and symptoms of a cold and flu.

The Language of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Before I begin explaining TCM concepts of bacteria and viruses I am already going to go off topic here!

First, I want to acknowledge how much the early physicians of China knew about infectious diseases (and most other areas of health), which they characterized as a pestilence, 1000’s of years ago without any of the technology we have today.

Equally important is to not undermine the unique language and terminology TCM utilizes, which is very difficult for other cultures and physicians rooted in modern science.  The words Qi, Yin and Yang bring to mind ideas of an esoteric and almost spiritual connotation to most of the Western World.  Simplistic definitions for these words are frequently repeated, such as Qi meaning energy.   But there is no single simplistic meaning to these words, rather an array of potential meanings that must be applied in context.

Such words were created in the Chinese language to express complex, yet concrete, ideas and concepts, within the context of TCM that you will read below.

These words objectively express fundamental ideas of complex physiology in the body.  And I have found, integrate well with modern terminology and disease description.

To better understand these terms outside of Asian culture, one must understand the context of the language itself. The Chinese language is perhaps the oldest original language left on our planet, and is composed of pictorial characters rather than letters. This use of written characters allows the Chinese culture to express concrete ideas that are very complicated and dependent on the context of the surrounding characters.

While these concepts and terms may be hard to grasp, they are very important and unique to modern Western medicine, as they reflect a medical philosophy that is:

  • Holistic (body, mind and spirit)
  • Acknowledges and integrates the laws of nature and the universe
  • Is based on an individualized diagnostic system that contrasts to a one-size fits all allopathic model of medicine.

Interior and Exterior Diseases

Establishing the depth of a disease in the body is important to the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.  A cold or flu often starts in the exterior and if not eliminated will progress to the interior of the body where it can become a chronic disease.

The Covid-19 virus is known as a Pulmonary Pestilence in TCM.  It starts in the exterior and progresses to the interior of the lungs.

Exterior Diseases  Covid-19 virus and TCM

Exterior disease are like your common cold and flu, Bell’s Palsy and many skin conditions.  They are acute and do not last very long.  Pathogens (germs, virus, bacteria etc) that surround us enter the body via wind into the exterior, the surface of the body.  As the pathogen lodges itself in the exterior, the exterior parts of the body are affected, which are the skin, muscles, tendons, joints and orifices (including the mucous membranes).

Typical Signs and Symptoms of an exterior condition:

  • Acute and short duration
  • Simultaneous chills and fevers
  • Sneeze
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle and joint ache
  • Recent headache
  • Intolerance to wind or cold

Signs and symptoms are further influenced by the type of pathogen that invaded the exterior, such as wind, heat, cold, dryness and dampness.  For example, an invasion of dampness,  a type of pathogenic excess fluid, is characterized as sticky, dirty and heavy.  Dampness will give rise to a feeling of a heavy body, foggy/muzzy head, strong body and joint ache and copious phlegm – runny nose and congested sinuses.  An invasion of dryness will produce a dry cough, dry mouth, dry throat, dry nose and dry tongue.

Pathogens in the exterior tissues are best eliminated by sweating.  People with a strong immune system can fight this pathogen at the exterior level preventing it from penetrating deeper into the body where it can become chronic.  A fever accompanied by sweating is good sign that your immune system is fighting the pathogen.

Contagious diseases that affect the sinuses, bronchials and throat often have exterior signs in their initial stages.  Therefore, as soon as one recognizes and treats the onset of an exterior disease, the more likely you can reverse their progression to an interior disease.

Interior Diseases

If the pathogen is not purged by sweating it will move deeper into the body in stages.  If a person has extremely weak Wei Qi (weak immunity) the pathogen can penetrate directly into the interior.  The interior areas of the body include bones, internal organs, deeper  nerves and blood vessels.

Signs and Symptoms of an interior condition are vast depending on which areas are affected.  Using the above the example an exterior damp type of cold that penetrates the interior, such as the lungs, will manifest as a chronic cough with profuse sputum (pneumonia, bronchitis) or chronic sinusitis.

The treatment of an interior disease will often require an in person visit with your TCM practitioner and/or Western physician.

Covid-19 Virus

The Covid-19 virus is known as a Pulmonary Pestilence in TCM.  It starts in the exterior manifesting mostly as fever and dry cough.  If the patient has a compromised immune system and/or is not treated early it progresses to the interior, the lungs, where it can cause increased difficulty breathing, pneumonia.  In TCM the treatment is to cleanse and detoxify the lungs and all other symptoms are treated to avoid complications.

TCM Doctors specializing in Chinese herbs have developed Chinese formulas to treat early to middle stages of Covid-19.  This video demonstrates the power of TCM and how successfully it can easily adapt to modern diseases and integrate with modern Western medicine.

Food for Health

Food for health, just like Chinese herbs,  is a full branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine and so easy to incorporate into your day.  Food and Chinese herbs have unique TCM therapeutic functions.  For example for Dampness we would use drying herbs or foods.  There are even specific herbs and foods that will dry particular areas or organs.

Therapeutic functions:

  • Disperse (expand, spread)
  • Astringe (hold, bind)
  • Tonify (nourish, boost)
  • Sedate
  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Moisten
  • Dry
  • Eliminate toxins
  • Move (exterior, interior, ascend, descend)

Treating an Exterior Disease

At the first sign of a possible infection of a cold or flu we want to expel the pathogen to the exterior and purge it via sweating.  Profuse sweating is not recommended and promoting sweating is NOT recommended for the very weak, very old and very young.

Beneficial Herbs and Spices  Cinnamon in TCM

At home in our kitchen we may have a plethora of ingredients for home made remedies.  This is very convenient for those now on a tight budget or in self-isolation.   When you start to feel sick (cold or flu) we want to choose herbs and spices that have the action of dispersing to the exterior and opening (expanding) the sweat glands to sweat out the exterior  disease lodged  near the surface.

Common Diaphoretic (sweating) and Dispersing Herbs: 

  • Fresh ginger *(NOT dry)
  • Scallions and Chives (NOT onions)
  • Cinnamon
  • Mint or peppermint
  • Szechuan pepper corns
  • Cayenne red pepper*
  • Clove

Sweating Procedure

  1. Drink a cup or more of hot diaphoretic herbal tea (see below)
  2. Take a hot bath or shower
  3. Drink more hot tea
  4. Cover yourself in blanket and sweat

Do not sweat  to the point of exhaustion.  After sweating change your bedding and rest.  This procedure can be repeated twice daily until exterior signs lift.

If a hot bath or shower is inconvenient, drink 1/2 cup of tea every half hour in bed until perspiring freely.  When diaphoresis does not work this indicates a deeper/interior condition likely exists.

Sweating therapy can also be beneficial for infectious diseases marked by rashes.  It helps bring the toxins in the rash out of the body.






Diaphoretic Herbal Teas:

Ginger Tea

3 slices of fresh ginger,  1/4  lemon juice and peel with rind, whites of 3 scallions, stick of cinnamon (or ground), some raw honey for flavor

Mint Tea

Fresh mint leaves, 1/4 orange peel with rind, whites of 3 scallions, 3 cloves, some raw honey for flavor

For predominating chills add Cayenne red pepper to your tea.



Garlic can stop a cold or flu if taken at the onset of symptoms.   Hold half a peeled garlic clove against your cheek for 20-30 minutes every 3 hours during the day.  Move the garlic clove in your mouth occasionally to avoid a “burning” sensation.

 Beneficial Foods                  Garlic in TCM                                             

It is best to eat much less and eat a simple, liquid-based diet.  If chills predominate eat vegetable and/or grain soups and if fever is more predominate consume fresh fruit and vegetable or fruit juices.

  • Cabbage
  • Green peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Parsley and cilantro
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Turnips and parsnips
  • Horseradish*
  • Chives and scallions*
  • Garlic*
  • Kale
  • Bok choy
  • Collard greens
  • Asparagus

For predominating chills use more warming herbs and foods marked with “*”.

Convalescing From An Interior Or Exterior Disease

An important part of recovering from a flu like Covid-19 is hydration.   Consuming soup is more effective than simply drinking water.  Soups provide a slow release of fluids, allowing it to assimilate in the body, whereas water moves through the body quickly and has a more cleansing affect.

For people convalescing from the flu soups should be nourishing, easy to digest and aid in digestion to ensure the assimilation of nutrients.  These soups are also wonderful for anybody recovering from any chronic illness and for the elderly.

Porridge and congee can be eaten for breakfast.  It is recommended to use: oat meal, millet, rice, cream of wheat or polenta.

Soups For Recovering From The Flu:                             

  • Chicken and rice
  • Beef and barley
  • Miso
  • Corn chowder
  • Mushroom soup
  • Congee
  • Lentil soup
  • Butternut/Squash/Sweet potato soup





Rice Congee Recipe:

This recipe is from Andrew Sterman and has more congee recipes here.

To make good congee, use good quality medium-grain or long-grain white rice, preferably grown in the style suited to the Asian market in Canada.   Also avoid short-grain, arborio or risotto rices, they are too sticky.

1 cup dry rice makes enough congee for 4-6 people.  Eventually the amount of water for 1 cup white rice is 8-10 cups.

Begin by bringing 8-12 cups water to a boil.  Use a stock pot on the stove burner behind the congee pot.  Simple stocks can be used, but avoid complex chicken or bone stocks for congee.

  1. Put 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice in large pot.  Turn heat to high, add a tablespoon of good oil (grapeseed, organic peanut, safflower, etc).  Stir so each grain is coated lightly with oil.  Add two generous pinches salt.
  2. Then, add just enough boiling water to float the grains, perhaps 1 cup (no need to measure carefully).  Stir constantly as the grains absorb the water.  When almost dry, add more boiling water, keep stirring.  After 3 or 4 gradual additions of water while you are nearly constantly stirring (about 10 minutes), the grains will have given up starch to the water.
  3. Once the grains have released starch into the cooking water, you can add a lot more water and turn the heat down to a gentle low simmer for about 30-45 minutes, now stirring occasionally.  Do not allow the grains to settle and stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add water (stock) as needed to get the special congee consistency, in other words, milky water between discernible rice grains, very soft cooked.
  4. Once done, congee is always served with other things—start with a few simple ingredients.
  5. Eat with simple condiments (with scallion, soy sauce, ginger and toasted sesame oil) or improvise more substantial additions: sliced fish, seafood, nuts, pumpkin/squash, corn niblets, soft-boiled eggs, gently cooked bean sprouts, dried scallops, sliced pork, duck, chicken, cilantro, etc., often utilizing leftovers from the refrigerator or contributions from the freezer.  Always consider your intention when selecting ingredients, based on your growing knowledge of food energetics and current health needs.

Avoid Dehydrating Foods and Drink:

  • Onions and garlic
  • Hot spices
  • Tea and coffee
  • Soda water
  • Alcohol

Treating An Interior Disease

When an Exterior disease moves deeper into the body creating an Interior disease the treatment protocol to eliminate the pathogen differs.  The pathogen’s only exit is via the the intestines and bladder therefore it is very important to main good bowel movements to eliminate the pathogen.  We also need to add bitter foods to our diet as they are descending in nature and will help eliminate the disease.

As previously mentioned the treatment of an interior disease will often require an in person visit with your TCM practitioner (for Chinese herbs and acupuncture) and/or Western physician.

Beneficial Foods for Good Bowel Movement:

  • Oats, rye, barley, oat meal, millet, brown rice, corn (polenta, grits), spelt, amaranth
  • Fruit with peel, especially apples and asian pears
  • Nuts and seeds, especially almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, flax, chia
  • Green vegetables
  • Carrots, beets, parsnips, daikon, mushrooms

Foods That Are Descending:

  • Endive, radicchio
  • Olives
  • Artichoke
  • Water cress
  • Broccoli, raw
  • Dandelion greens
  • Bean sprouts

Steps to Prevent Catching A Cold or Flu


  • Moderate regular exercise is recommended.
  • Lack of physical activity, excess sexual activity and overwork impair immunity. 
  • Maintain an orderly, pleasant living and working environment.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Quality sleep is important for your body to restore itself.
  • It is essential for those with very weak immunity to associate with completely supportive people.
  • Sunlight, clean, fresh air and pure water strengthen the immunity.
  • Avoid overexposure to dampness and protect against other climatic extremes.


Healing your mindset is the foundation for immunity; gratitude and forgiveness are the preliminary steps. 


We want to avoid sugar, gluten and dairy (especially cheese) as they are damp forming foods.  Dampness can easily affect the lungs creating excess phlegm and mucous in the upper and lower air ways.

In winter when it is the cold and flu season, we want to avoid icy foods and fluids as they are hard on the lungs.  These can weaken the lungs making them more susceptible to disease such as pneumonia and bronchitis

Beneficial foods

  • Eat whole foods, choosing a variety from a grain and vegetable-based diet.
  • Moderate under eating and simpler food combinations can strengthen immunity.
  • Do not eat late at night.
  • Avoid intoxicants, refined or chemically contaminated foods, rancid nuts and seeds.
  • Limit oils and fats.
  • If candida overgrowth symptoms are present, further dietary discipline is necessary.  Candida exists in high levels in individuals with a weak immune system.  Candida inhibits proper assimilation of essential amino acids and other nutrients further weakening immunity.
  • Supplements include; zinc, selenium, Vitamins; A, B, C, E and B complex.
  • Whole food supplements are often immeasurably more effective than the synthetic variety.  Vitamins in whole foods include: whole or barley grass concentrates, sea vegetables, chlorella and spirulina are all beneficial for long term use.

Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbal formulas to strengthen the immunity are readily available.  They are best taken 1-2 months before the cold and flu season.

Winter – Self Care with Traditional Chinese Medicine

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The seasons affect us all, from the way we go about our day to very subtle shifts in the body. With the change of each season I will talk about how to adapt to each season to enhance your health and wellbeing. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the seasons correspond with the Five Elements; Wood/Spring, Fire/Summer, Metal/Autumn and Water/Winter. The theory of the Five Elements plays a significant role in the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The fifth element Earth, does not have a season as it is the centre to which the seasons spin. The Earth corresponds to the late stage of each season, towards the end of each season their energies go back to the Earth for replenishment.


Many of my patients struggle through Winter, experiencing symptoms of depression, low energy and mood swings or what is referred to in the West as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  These feelings can be a sign of an imbalance with their Water element that will often compel them south for some respite from the freezing short days.  But maybe there is something we can learn from Winter and the corresponding Water element that may help one embrace the season with a little more warmth.


Winter is when everything slows down; water trickles beneath hard layers of ice, bears hibernate in dark dens and trees are dormant to conserve energy.

Nature is at rest in Winter and in this rest replenishes itself.  With this rest, conserving energy, nature is preparing itself for the outburst and growth of new life and energy in the Spring.

With our busy active lifestyles, we too need to welcome a period of rest, to conserve and replenish our physical, mental and emotional energy.  If we don’t get sufficient rest, we are prone to sickness, injuries, stress and accelerating our aging process.

In order to fully enjoy the seasons, you must allow yourself to surrender to the Winter.  In this deep stillness of nature, Winter beckons us to examine the depths of our being.

Winter is a time to reconnect to your inner being, for reflection, for stillness and for solitude.

The Water Element

The season Winter is connected with the Water element which is related to the organs of the Kidneys and Bladder, which govern your water metabolism.  Winter is all about balancing and harmonizing your Water element and protecting and nurturing the Kidneys and Bladder in order to maintain good physical and emotional health.

In Chinese medicine excessive introspection, or an increase in worry, fear and depression is very much associated with the Water element and an imbalance of the Kidney and Bladder energy.  For some people these feelings can become much more acute in Winter. 

How to Balance and Harmonize your Water Element in Winter


Rest:  Rest appropriately to replenish your Kidneys and to conserve your physical energy. Resting needs to be balanced with some light activity to maintain good circulation.

Stay Warm:  Your Kidneys are in the area of your lower back, during Winter your lower back area is more vulnerable to the cold.  It is very important to keep your middle area warm.  Avoid heavy lifting which can easily put a strain on your lower back that is often weaker during Winter.

Balance the Emotion Fear:  Fear is the emotion associated with the Water Element. In a healthy way fear is an emotion that moves and directs us to remain alert and attentive to our surroundings and situation. When Water is out of balance, fear becomes an obstacle to movement.  A deficiency in the Water energy might manifest as chronic anxiety or as an intense phobia.
















The colder weather encourages you to slow down and this provides the opportunity for deeper thought, bringing to the surface any unresolved emotional matters.  Acknowledging, owning and addressing the origins of any fears that you may have is part of the healing process and balancing your Water energy.

Acupuncture:  Acupuncture can help balance the Water element and with Traditional Chinese Herbs can treat the Kidneys and Bladder.  Anybody over the age of 45 would benefit from such treatments as the Kidney Qi is already waning and more prone to the effects of Winter.


The Kidneys play a vital role in Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are often referred to as the “Root of Life”.  The Kidneys determine our genetic predisposition and govern birth, growth, reproduction and development.

They are also regarded as the body’s most important reserve of essential energy or Qi.  The kidneys are the foundation for all the Yin and Yang energies of the body.  Kidney Yang is the motive force of all physiological processes.  Kidney Yin is the fundamental substance for birth, growth and reproduction.

The strong health of the Kidneys is essential so any stored energy can be readily available for use in times of environmental or emotional change or stress, as well as to heal and prevent illness.

During the Winter months it is important to nurture and nourish your Kidney Qi as this is the time when this energy can be most easily depleted.  The Kidney energy naturally declines with age and this is reflected in the signs of aging.  As we grow older we become more susceptible to the Winter months.  How fast we age is determined by our genetics (Kidney energy from our parents) and how well we nurture and protect our Kidneys.

Common signs of imbalanced Kidneys:

  • Sexual disorders
  • Infertility
  • Weak low back and knees
  • Urinary disorders
  • Fear, depression, anxiety
  • Early signs of aging
  • Chronic fatigue

How to Nurture and Protect your Kidneys


Avoid raw and cold foods during the Winter as much as possible, as these tend to cool the body using up our reserves of energy.  Incorporate more warming foods, both in energy (see below) and in temperature.  Baking and roasting are two of the most warming cooking methods.  Warming food, such as soups and stews, root vegetables, beans, garlic and ginger, are perfect for you at this time of year.

Beneficial Foods for the Kidneys

Grains:  Black beans, quinoa, millet, aduki beans, oats

Vegetables:  Onion family, string beans, asparagus, sweet potato, alfalfa sprouts

Spices:  Cloves, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, fennel tea, star anise, black peppercorn, ginger (dry), cinnamon bark, garlic, cardamom, celery seed, caraway, rosemary, dry ginger, juniper and nettles

Fruits, Nuts, Sweeteners:  Walnuts, chestnut, dates, cherries, raspberries, blackberries and apricots.  Dried, baked or stewed fruit with warming spices will moderate the cooling nature of fruit.

Animal:  Chicken, lamb, trout, salmon, mussel, kidney, egg, shrimp, lobster (all proteins should be organic)

Recipe; Add several of the above warming spices and foods in black bean-seaweed soup.

Foods to Avoid or Reduce

  • Cooling foods (wheat, tomatoes, soy products, citrus, bananas)
  • Chilled foods and beverages
  • Fruit (cold or raw)
  • Raw vegetables (lightly cook vegetables instead)
  • Excess salt
  • Avoid sweet foods
  • Fatty and heavy foods
  • Wheat
  • Consuming liquids with meals
  • Dry breakfast cereals or granola (eat cooked oats or brown rice cream instead and add dates and warming spices)
  • Avoid stimulants, especially coffee


  • Avoid excessive stress and fear
  • Years of overwork or excessive labour/exercise can deplete your Kidneys
  • Acupuncture and TCM Herbs can maintain your Kidneys and Bladder or help treat any related health disorders
  • Maintain adequate exercise, but avoid strenuous exercise
  • Quality rest and relaxation and sound sleep (8 hrs) is essential to the replenishing process over Winter
  • Keep warm especially around the middle area of the body where your Kidneys reside.  The Kidneys are vulnerable to the cold which weakens them.  When the Kidney energy is depleted low back injuries can occur.

You came from a place of love not fear,

you will return to a place of love not fear,

you ARE love. 

Oriental Diet Therapy to Improve Your Digestion

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Poor Digestion leads to the condition of Dampness


Digestion in Oriental Medicine

The Spleen (includes the Pancreas) and Stomach in Chinese medicine is responsible for transforming (digesting) and transporting (distributing) the pure and impure essences of food.  The pure part of the refined food essence (nutrients) is the source of all Qi and Blood in the body.  The impure (wastes) part of the refined food essence is transported downwards to the intestines where it is further separated and refined.

Proper transformation and transportation of food are essential for the adequate production of Blood and Qi.  The Qi is used by the body to create; energy, immunity, vitality, warmth, formation of tissues and mental functions.  With any signs of Blood deficiency, the Spleen must be treated.

How Does Dampness Develop

Chinese medicine loves to use metaphors and the Spleen and Stomach are likened to a cauldron cooking over a fire.  The cauldron of food waiting to be cooked is the Stomach and the fire is the digestive process of the Spleen.  As the fire cooks the food, the food breaks down and releases their nutrients and are dispersed by the uprising steam.

The Spleen provides the warmth and Qi to transform and transport the food essence in the Stomach.

The fire is important to “burn off” (evaporate) the moisture and if the fire is weak dampness can accumulate in various parts of the body.  This is why we should avoid excess amounts of foods that are dampening, that can put the digestive fire out.  Dampening foods are those that are difficult to digest, heavy or not pure (see below).

The Spleen can be weakened by; poor diet, poor eating habits, excessive worry and/or anxiety, excessive mental strain (study, work), living in a damp climate, sedentary lifestyle and chronic diseases.

Dampness is a disorder characterized by any overly wet or moist condition in the body.  Damp excesses in the digestive tract, lungs, bladder, sexual organs, and elsewhere most often appear as:

  • Various types of mucoid deposits or moist accumulations such as edema, excess discharges (sputum, ear wax, leukorrhea etc), lumps, swellings
  • An overgrowth of yeasts (such as Candida), viruses, putrefactive bacteria, amoebas and parasites
  • Stiffness, pain and numbness of the joints and limbs
  • Feelings of heaviness of the body, particularly in the head
  • Thick tongue coating

Many chronic illnesses involve Dampness.  Unresolved chronic Dampness turns into

Phlegm, a more serious disorder characterized by cysts, tumors and cancers.


Signs of a Deficient Spleen

Loose stools                                                                   General weakness                                          Nervous indigestion

Fatigue                                                                            Pale colored tongue                                       Weak digestion

Weak pulse                                                                    Food sensitivities                                            Anemia

Chronic diarrhea                                                          Ulcers                                                                Pain in the upper abdomen

Physical and mental stagnation                                Nausea                                                              Poor appetite

Dull sense of taste                                                        Abdominal bloating                                       Hard lumps in the abdomen

Blood-sugar imbalances                                             Sallow complexion                                         Live in disorder

Tend to be overweight without overeating OR thin and unable to gain weight                        Sloppy appearance

Compulsive or “stuck” behaviour that prevents you from creatively developing your personalities

Accumulate useless possessions

How To Tonify Your Spleen and Improve Your Digestion


The Spleen likes to have a routine; eat regular meals and keep regular sleep and wake times.

Enjoy whatever you decide to eat.

Food must be chewed well.

Eat in a relaxed and positive environment.  Don’t eat and study or work at the same time.

Avoid drinking large amounts of water with your meals.

Small, frequent meals are necessary if the Spleen deficiency is severe.

Avoid large meals or over eating.

The Spleen loves touch, people often focus on food when they actually need close contact.

Avoid late night eating and eating on the run.


Beneficial Foods

The dietary treatment for Spleen deficiency involves foods that are either warming or at least neutral in thermal nature.  Foods with cooling properties or that are cold in temperature weaken the digestion.

A common misconception is that a raw diet is healthy.  Raw foods are cool in nature and difficult to digest.  Raw food is best tolerated by people with a very strong digestive system.

It is very important to note that Children’s digestive systems are still developing and therefore weaker than adults.  Providing children with a Spleen nurturing diet is beneficial and can help them avoid developing food sensitivities and other digestive problems.

Complex carbohydrates: peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables.

Congee: well cooked rice is an excellent Spleen tonic, as well as oats and spelt.

Carbohydrate rich vegetables: winter squash, carrots, rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, garbanzo beans, black beans, peas, sweet potato, yam, pumpkin

Pungent vegetables and spices: onion, leek, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, nutmeg

Small amounts of certain sweeteners and cooked fruits: rice syrup, barley malt, molasses, cherry, date

Chicken Congee. Congee is a thin savory porridge of rice that is wonderful for people with severe Spleen deficiency and for people convalescing.

Congee Recipe:

Use one cup of rice to 5-8 cups of water.  Bring the rice and water to the boil and cook in a covered pot (crockpot works very well) for 2-6 hrs on a warm stove.  It is better to use too much water than too little, and it is said that the longer congee cooks, the more “powerful” it becomes.

For flavor, nourishment and to aid digestion you can add; carrot, ginger, leek, scallion bulb and chicken (include the bones in the crockpot then remove before serving).

Foods to Reduce or Avoid

Excessive raw vegetables

Fruit, especially citrus


Cereal grasses

Cooling foods: tomato, spinach, chard, tofu, millet, amaranth,

seaweeds, wild blue-green microalgae, salt

Excessive sweet foods, liquids, dairy products


Food that is rich or high in fats

Eat in small amounts; nuts, seeds, oils, animal products






How To Dry Dampness

Tonifying the Spleen will help prevent the condition of Dampness developing.  But if we already have Dampness in the body there are some dietary and lifestyle modifications you can incorporate in your day to eliminate Dampness.


Adequate aerobic exercise is essential for eliminating dampness

Improving the strength of the digestive system is essential by following the above Spleen tonifying recommendations

Avoid over exposure to damp environmental conditions, such as sitting too long on cold, damp ground

Probiotics supplements are helpful in cases where the intestinal flora has been damaged, such as yeast overgrowth

Avoid; late night eating, overeating, too many ingredients in a meal


Beneficial Foods

Foods which dry dampness;

  • rye, amaranth
  • corn
  • aduki beans
  • celery
  • lettuce
  • pumpkin
  • scallion
  • alfalfa
  • turnip
  • kohlrabi
  • white pepper
  • raw honey
  • all bitter herbs (such as chaparral, chamomile)
  • micro-algae dunaliella and wild blue-green algae

Raw goat’s milk is the one dairy product that will not usually contribute to dampness.

Foods to Reduce or Avoid

Excessive raw and cold food such as raw fruit and vegetables, sprouts and juices (especially in the colder months)

Sweet food

Cold temperature food; food and drink should be consumed at room temperature or warmer (especially in the colder month)



Dairy products

Fats; lard, butter (especially hydrogenated fats such as margarine), oils, nuts, seeds (especially peanuts)

Concentrated sweeteners


Refined or highly processed foods

Stale food

Chemically treated foods, foods that contain lots of additives

Fall – Self Care With Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Where did Fall go?

Fall is the season of harvest and for preparing for the winter.  But with the heavy snowfall I’m viewing and unseasonably cold September have we missed this opportunity?  And what about the animals, have their days of gathering and storing been shortened?  During my sub-alpine hikes, I noticed how rapidly the ground squirrels disappeared underground in September.

Fall generally is the season of harvest, when we reap what we planted in Spring and store them for the Winter.  However, here in the Bow Valley our growing season is challenging.  Many of my tomatoes never got to ripen, but I did have a bumper pesto crop this Fall (by bringing my Basil plants indoors!).

However, Fall is mostly all about preparing for the Winter and there are many ways we can still do this through our diet and lifestyle.


The Metal Element

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fall is associated with the Metal element.  Metal reflects our core issues, like the ore found deep within a mountain.  Our core issues are those dealing with existential reality; “Who am I?”, “What is my purpose?”, “What remains constant in a forever changing world?”.  If you have an affinity to the Metal element you are drawn to these core issues and if you don’t, during Fall we may be called to deal with these core issues.

The Metal element also governs organization and order.  During this time, you will want to prepare for the challenges of winter by completing unfinished projects, clearing away clutter and debris, setting extra food and fuel aside and making sure you are physically and emotionally prepared for the cold, dark months ahead.

The Metal energy is also drawn to beauty, pleased with symmetry and inspired by purity.  Because we are drawn to these elements we are more highly attuned and sensitive to our surroundings.  We are more concerned with deeper issues and small talk becomes annoying.

Our majestic, snow-capped mountains mirror the power of Metal, firmly grounded to the core, beautiful and pure, remaining steadfast in a changing world, but reaching with power to the heavens.

The Emotion Grief or Sadness

Grief or sadness is connected to Metal.  Metal connects us to a time and season to let go of the past and create room for the new.

In the Fall we start to slow down and say farewell to the abundance and energy of Summer.   The direction connected with Metal is the West, reflecting the setting sun.  In Fall as the days shorten we say good bye to those long sunny days.  This process can be difficult for those who love summer and easy for those that welcome Fall for the crisper air and vivid colors of the yellow trembling aspens, red fire weed and golden larches.


The Lungs and Large Intestine

The organs connected with the Metal element are the Lungs and the Large Intestine, which reflect the spiritual nature of Fall, gathering and letting go.

The lungs take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide through breathing.  The large intestine absorbs water, nutrients, minerals and vitamins.  It also holds and eliminates waste.

The word used for breathing in is “inspiration,” which is the main function of the Lung, both physically and spiritually. To be properly “inspired,” we must create space by expiring the old stale air, along with letting go of the past and old notions.

The Lungs balance the ability to give and take, hold on and let go. When the Lung (Metal) energy is out of balance, order and discipline are rigidly maintained, the emotions are kept under tight control, rules and routines become inflexible, and the body begins to stiffen up.

Physically the Lungs are considered to be the “tender organ” in Traditional Chinese Medicine.   This is because the lungs are the uppermost organ in the body and are especially susceptible to dryness, wind and cold.

In the Fall we are more prone to respiratory infections; colds, bronchitis, pneumonia and sinusitis.  The lungs are very closely associated with the immune system and control the circulation of the Wei-Qi, which is the defensive Qi that warms the body and protects the body from external attacks by viruses and bacteria. A weakness in the lungs can lead to a weakness in the Wei-Qi, making you prone to frequent colds.

Allergies and asthma are amplified or may appear in the Fall.  The pollens and mold in the air, as well as the cold winds of autumn, stress our immune reserves, making it a good time to support the immune system with some acupuncture, herbs and supplements.

At first the Lungs and the Large Intestine seem to have little in common with each other, as one is involved with respiration and the other with digestion. But Traditional Chinese Medicine views things energetically rather than purely physically.

The colon is the organ of elimination and is responsible for eliminating what is unnecessary and toxic from the body. Only when the body is cleansed of toxic matter can it receive the more refined energy brought in by its partner, the Lung.  In addition to eliminating physical waste, we also need to eliminate mental and spiritual rubbish.  If waste keeps building up and we can’t take in purity we are more likely to feel stubborn, depressed, isolated and unfulfilled.

Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, flatulence, and abdominal pain, all reflect imbalances with the Large Intestine and its corresponding Metal energy.



What you eat can greatly affect the health of your lungs. During autumn, eat fewer cooling foods (salads and raw foods).  Eating excess cooling foods creates conditions called dampness and phlegm which is stored in the Lungs as excessive mucous and phlegm in the respiratory system.  Dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, and butter) also creates dampness and phlegmPhlegm and damp will exacerbate sinus problems and lung conditions.

A balanced metal diet consists of hearty soups and stews, including root vegetables, meats, nuts, fish and oils.

Eating vegetables and whole grains is necessary for our bodies all year to help cleanse the intestines.  In the Fall moderate amounts of warming spices such as cayenne, ginger and curry promote good digestion and elimination.

Remember to drink plenty of water as Fall is associated with dryness that the Lungs are susceptible to (a humidifier may be helpful).   Water will also promote healthier bowel movements.

Beneficial foods for the Lungs:

Food and spices and that are especially helpful: garlic, mustard greens, anise, sweet marjoram, basil, fresh ginger, blackstrap molasses, almond, sunflower seed, walnut, Chinese or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), black bean and oats.  Nuts and seeds may be eaten regularly, but only in small amounts.  Walnuts are most useful.

Grains: Basmati brown rice, long grain brown rice, sweet rice, oats

Vegetables: carrot, mustard greens, sweet potato, yam, potato, mushroom, olives, pumpkin

Spices: fresh ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, horseradish, garlic

Fruits, Nuts, Sweeteners: papaya, peach, grapes, almond, peanut, walnut, molasses, honey, rice syrup, barley malt

Animal: duck, tuna, port, herring



Organize your Life: As you work to organize your life, try to focus on what you have accomplished rather than fretting about all the work that remains to be done. Give yourself a task that you can finish in less than an hour, and then chip away at the mess and clutter one step at a time.

Breathe: One of the best ways to strengthen the lungs is to breathe deeply.  Make sure you focus on exhaling completely.  Deep breathing also increases energy, stills the mind and lifts the spirits.  An enjoyable outdoor activity will help you breathe deeply and help the lungs receive the pure Qi from the Heavens.


Practice Letting Go: Write down the hurts and resentments you feel lingering from the previous year. Write each incident or event on a separate piece of paper. Realize that each of these pieces of paper weigh you down, and that the old resentments prevent the new from coming in. Then tear up the papers and throw them in the wastepaper basket or put them in your fireplace and burn them, watching the smoke dissipate.

Cleanse Your Body: A gentle cleanse will give your body time to eliminate toxins; this will help your immune system prevent colds and flus.  Don’t fast for long, but rather eat healthy fruits, vegetables and only complex carbohydrates.  Drink plenty of water to cleanse the body and promote healthier bowel movements.

Rest and Sleep: The late afternoon and evening is associated with the Metal energy.  This is a good time of the year to enjoy these hours by relaxing, letting go of the day’s concerns and preparing for sleep.

I may have missed my opportunity to transplant my daffodil bulbs but as it continues to dump outside I think I will take this opportunity to declutter the closet and put the crock pot on.

Pearl Powder – Ancient Chinese Beauty Secret Revealed

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When I started practising Cosmetic Chinese Acupuncture it was important to me to also use safe, natural and effective skin products.  As a result, I learnt about the anti-aging effects of many Chinese herbs on the skin.

Many of my facial skin products contain Chinese herbs.  Pearl Powder is my favourite and it also so easy to use at home in your own skin care routine.

Pearl Powder is made from pearls below jewellery grade.  They are milled into a fine powder and has a similar consistency to talc powder.  I use nano sized Pearl Powder so that it can be easily and completely absorbed by the body.



Pearl or Zhen Zhu (“Precious Ball”), has been used for over 2000 years by Chinese women to beautify their skin.  It is widely used today in China and is known for its ability to slow the signs of aging and to lighten the skin.

Pearl is documented in an ancient Chinese medical book, Ben Cao Gang or Materia Medica, the most complete and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine.

It describes the ability of pearl to promote healing of the skin, stimulate new skin growth, protect the skin from sun damage and remove age spots.

The empress Wu Ze Tian (625 AD – 705 AD),  China’s only female emperor, used pearl powder to maintain her beauty.

She took pearl powder daily as a medicine and applied pearl powder to her skin.

When she ascended the throne at 65 years old, her beauty had become legendary and her skin was said to be as radiant as a young woman.



Today an increasing amount of modern science supports the ancient Chinese wisdom about pearl.

1. Pearl powder has at least 30 trace minerals, along with calcium (over 90%), iron, copper, magnesium, silica, and selenium which are needed for healthy hormones, a strong immune system, and youthful skin.


2. Pearl powder contains conchiolin that will hydrate your skin and make it glow.

The beautiful luminescence of pearl comes from conchiolin.  Conchiolin is a protein that hydrates skin cells, accelerate cell metabolism, facilitate the repair of damaged cells, and increase peripheral circulation.

Accelerated skin cell regeneration and metabolism helps repair sun damaged skin and fade  age/sun spots and blemishes.


3.  Pearl powder can stimulate the skin’s fibroblasts.

Dermal fibroblasts are cells within the dermis layer of skin which are responsible for generating connective tissue and allowing the skin to recover from injury.


4.  Pearl powder can also help regenerate collagen, thus improving skin tone and reducing the signs of wrinkles.

Collagen is a protein that provides integrity, firmness and elasticity to the skin.  The degradation of collagen by age, free radicals and the sun leads to wrinkles.


5.  Research has also shown that pearl powder can speed up healing and reduce inflammation for various skin conditions such as redness, rashes, acne, wounds and burns.


6.  Pearl powder prevents the formation of the enzymes responsible for the degradation of elastic fibers.


7.  Pearl powder accelerates the growth of new cells. Resulting in smoother skin and promotes the elimination of rough patches, skin toxins, age/sun spots and blemishes.


8.  Researchers believe that the minerals and amino acids of the pearls can be absorbed through the skin.


How to use Pearl Powder

Pearl powder is part of my nightly ritual.  I ingest a little (about 1/4 tsp) which really has no taste at all and wash it down with some water.  You could put it into your food or a smoothie anytime of the day.

I then mix a little in my palm with my choice of cream or serum for the night.  Usually some extra pearl powder goes on those “larger freckles”.

Make a Mask:

  • 1-2 tsp pearl powder
  • 2-3 tbsp water, milk, egg white or your choice of carrier oils**
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1-3 drops of your choice of essential oils*

Mix the ingredients into a paste.  Apply onto clean skin for 20 minutes.  Wash off.

*Essential oils I use on aging skin are carrot seed, argan, tamanu, lemon, amyris and sandalwood.

**Carrier oils I use on aging skin are jojoba, apricot kernel, sea buckthorn and rosehip seed


Pearl powder can be purchased at the Bow Valley Acupuncture clinic





Spring – Self Care With Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Welcome to my first blog! An appropriate time to talk about Spring, as Spring represents new beginnings.

The seasons affect us all, from the way we go about our day to very subtle shifts in the body. With the change of each season I will talk about how to adapt to each season to enhance your health and wellbeing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the seasons correspond with the Five Elements; Wood/Spring, Fire/Summer, Metal/Autumn and Water/Winter. The theory of the Five Elements plays a significant role in the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The fifth element Earth, does not have a season as it is the centre to which the seasons spin. The Earth corresponds to the late stage of each season, towards the end of each season their energies go back to the Earth for replenishment.


The Wood Element

The Wood Element over winter is at rest, storing and concentrating its energy. Winter is often a time for quiet introspection. As the days become warmer and brighter, nature emerges from winter’s slumber and the new growth and birth of Spring appears.

If we have followed nature’s way and rested over winter, we too emerge into Spring full of energy. Spring is the time to act. We make new plans and have a sense of purpose. Just like planting seeds for a future harvest, we determine our direction for the coming year.

The Wood Element is all about this upsurge of energy after the dormancy of winter. You should feel enlivened after a period of deep, wintry rest (assuming you allowed yourself to do so). Feel full of energy and vigor, wanting to do so much more.

But what happens when all our energy is stifled or our plans are thwarted? We can become angry, frustrated and want to shout. These are the signs of the Wood element becoming imbalanced. If we are not flexible like the wood of a Willow tree bending with the wind we can’t readjust, adapt and begin again.

Spring energy also supports and challenges us to grow and change. With this we may feel periods of unease, growing pains, from these processes.


The Liver

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Wood Element strongly corresponds with the Liver.

The mental-spiritual aspect of the Liver influences our capacity of planning our life and finding a sense of direction. That is why vision, aims, projects, inspiration, creativity and ideas tend to spring to mind in Spring!

If the energy of the Liver is weak the mental-spiritual aspect of the Liver is affected and we can experience a lack of direction in life and mental confusion.

The Liver has many functions that will be discussed in a future blog. The most important function of the Liver is ensuring the smooth flow of our energy throughout the body. Think of it as a vital aspect to maintaining the smooth flow of all our bodily processes. The impairment of this function is one of the most common patterns I see in the clinic.

The Liver is easily affected by anger, resentment and frustration. These emotions block the energy of the Liver, thereby impairing its function. It is common for the Liver energy to become imbalanced in Spring with the sudden upsurge of energy.

Strong flowing Liver energy can be encouraged and maintained during Spring by permitting ourselves to express our anger appropriately as it arises (shouting in the forest, journaling, expending pent up energy) as well as beginning new projects and spending more time outdoors.

Acupuncture is wonderful at unblocking stuck energy, regulating its flow and restoring balanced emotions.


Caring for our Liver in Spring.

During Spring we need to foster the Liver.  Conditions associated with the Wood Element/Liver may become more noticeable as we enter Spring.

Common signs of an imbalanced Liver:

  • Anger, frustration, shouting, irritability, mood swings, stress, resentment, arguing
  • An inability of forward movement and personal growth
  • Lack of vision or purpose
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Inflexibility to change, lack of ability to adapt
  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual problems
  • Brittle nails
  • Headaches
  • Bloating and Indigestion, including irritable bowel syndrome
  • Stiff joints
  • Muscle cramps
  • Eye irritation
  • Eczema, psoriasis
  • Feelings of heat
  • Neck and shoulder tension

How to take care of the Liver:

  • MOVE! In Spring people should rise early with the sun and take brisk walks” – Nei Ching.  Have you noticed when you are feeling stressed how a little exercise makes you feel better?  That’s because you are moving your Liver energy.  To prevent it from becoming stuck take frequents breaks at work.  Enjoy the outdoors, surround yourself with green, the color of Spring and the Liver.
  • A gentle Liver cleanse is ideal. Eat light, avoiding rich fatty foodsGive your Liver a break by eliminating all packaged, canned, processed, fried foods, gluten, sugar and alcohol.  Add foods into your diet to help cleanse the Liver; mung beans, mung bean sprouts, celery, lettuce, cucumber, water cress, mushrooms, radish and leafy greens.
  • Eat green foods to nourish the Liver. Green corresponds to Spring and the Liver.  Eat young fresh green vegetables.  Leafy greens (parsley, spinach, kale, dandelion), broccoli and sprouts are great for the Liver.
  • Eat sour foods to regulate the Liver’s energy. Start your day with a glass of lemon water, an easy and simple way to add some sour to your day!
  • Stretch those tendons. The Liver controls the tendons.  To avoid stiff joints, keep your tendons flexible and nourished.  Start a morning and evening stretch routine.  Try yoga, qi gong or tai chi.
  • Acupuncture is wonderful in regulating and nourishing your Liver. To help you embrace Spring try an Acupuncture treatment.  If you have any of the above signs of a Liver imbalance, Acupuncture can really help you treat them anytime of the year!
  • Begin new things – at home, at work and within yourself. In Spring nature reinvents itself, we can too.  Let new tissue grow over old hurts.  Grow and change to realize your potential!
  • Practice forgiveness – the opposite to Anger. The ability to forgive ourselves and others keeps our Wood Element healthy.  This allows us to move forward and grow, instead of being stuck with resentment and bitterness on situations of the past.