I’ve been hearing from moms lately that there have been several major outbreaks of lice in the elementary schools in Seattle. This is a common problem and one that is so frustrating when it happens in your own home. Lice are itchy! They’re also difficult to get rid of and require the use of harsh chemicals (and loads and loads of laundry!) About a year ago I learned about a natural product for preventing lice from jumping to my children’s heads. I’ve been using it ever since and so far so good (knock on wood.) It is a shampoo and leave in conditioner spray that have a strong scent of Rosemary which those little buggers hate. I use the shampoo on both of my children and on school days they each get a spritz of the conditioner at the nape of their necks (a place lice love to jump on) and on the parts of their hair. It smells wonderful to me and my kids and it gives me peace of mind.

The name of the product is Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Shampoo & Leave-in Conditioning Spray. It can be found on Amazon as well as in various Children’s Boutiques.

Interestingly, in Aromatherapy, Rosemary is said to combat mental tiredness, loss of motivation and poor focus and memory. That gives my kids an added bonus for their days in school.

 

 

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When the temperatures drop and the air gets crisp and Uwajimaya has it’s annual 15%-off-everything-sale, we have hotpot. I’ve written about this before, but I thought it would be nice to do so again, since it is such an autumn tradition for us. We pull out the Danube (Japanese clay pot) and our table-top cook stove. We get meat cut very thin by the talented butchers at Uwa who do it specifically for this and for the related dish, Sukiyaki. We pull together veggies, usually Napa cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves (sweet and delish!), several varieties of mushrooms (especially shitaki, enoki, maitake and oyster) carrots, tofu and daikon. Adding rice noodles is a nice touch, especially loved by kids. The broth is a simple 2 hour infusion with kombu, or sea kelp. The dried noodles soak for about an hour to soften them. Everything is put into the broth to quickly cook similar to a Swiss meat/veggie fondu. We prefer to make Japanese-style hotpots, which use broth and are a bit lighter than the Chinese versions which use oil in the cooking pot. Veggies, noodles and meat can be taken from the pot and put into each bowl and individuals can add as little or much garlic-chili paste and shredded daikon as desired. My daughters add none, I add enough to get a medium heat, and my husband makes his pretty hot. It was delicious and fun as usual. As you can see from the photo, this meal is a big hit with my 3 year old!!!

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When I was in my last semester of acupuncture school, I was pregnant with my first daughter. Once that fact became obvious to my teachers and classmates, my two Chinese instructors insisted that I needed to needle Kidney 9 regularly. It is thought that this point will produce a beautiful baby when needled throughout the pregnancy. I thought it was humorous at the time, but I have since come to rely on this point with all of my pregnant patients, as it is one of the most useful for securing a pregnancy and preventing miscarriage. I joke with my patients that we are needling the “beautiful baby” point, but in truth, I am using it to be sure that the uterine environment is as healthy as possible for the growing embryo and fetus.

From the book Acupuncture in Midwifery (which I highly recommend to acupuncturists focusing on Obstetrics) by Yelland:

“Kidney 9 is said to produce a child with particularly luminous complexion who would sleep at night, laugh in the daytime, be virtually immune to diseases or if he/she did catch a disease would heal quickly, be sane in mind, morals and body.”

 

Interesting note: Peter Deadman’s A Manual of Acupuncture, which is the main text used in American acupuncture schools, does not include miscarriage prevention or “beautiful baby” as indications for this point. The name of the point, however, translates to Guest House. To me, this sounds as though it is for the uterus while it is “housing” a guest, aka, a baby.

 

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There are many new books being published about fertility and Chinese Medicine. I have read most of them and find that most offer fairly accurate advice and expectations when using Chinese Medicine for fertility. I certainly think it’s helpful for women to have a basic understanding about how the medicine works, how we diagnose, basic nutritional advice. However, I think it is risky to follow advice about taking herbs or supplements from a book without seeing a professional trained in herbal or Naturopathic medicine. The author of a book has no way of knowing your particular set of circumstances and health make-up.

Here’s an example: In the book The Tao of Fertility, the author, Daoshing Ni gives a group of supplements that he recommends for women trying to get pregnant. These include high quality fish oil, B12, B6, Folic Acid and the amino acids L-carnitine and L-arginine. Now, it may be the author’s experience that most women respond well to these supplements, and I would agree that fish oil and B vitamins are essential for every woman. However, supplementing L-carnitine and L-arginine can have detrimental effects in some women including: low blood pressure, bleeding disorders, nausea and low blood sugar. These amino acids can be found in foods, and eating a well-balanced diet full of vegetables, fruit, legumes and lean meats will provide adequate quantities of both without the unnecessary risks of side effects from supplementation.

When considering any supplementation outside of a basic multi-vitamin, fish oil, and probiotics, supplements and herbs are best taken with the guidance of a Naturopath or herbalist who knows your personal health history and knows any pharmaceuticals that you are taking.  This ensures that what you are taking is tailored to what YOUR body needs, not general advice that doesn’t take your set of circumstances into account.

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I rarely tout the value of any given herbal product, but I just have to say a few words about Spring Wind’s Burn Cream. While cooking last night I got a fairly bad burn on the inside of my wrist. (This makes me a “real” chef, just ask Anthony Bourdain) After running it under cold water for awhile, and finishing making, serving and eating the meal, I applied this Burn Cream. Since it is absorbed into the skin, I reapplied it several times before going to bed. I was pretty sure the burn was bad enough that I would be applying the cream several times today. Instead, when I woke up and looked at my wrist, the burn was barely visible. A slight discoloration was still there, but there was no blister, no pain, no signs of the burn from the day before. As with many Chinese Medicine topicals, Spring Wind’s Burn Cream is not an odorless, clear product. Most effective herbal topicals are a little messy, and smell like…..herbs! The smell is not offensive, but you know when you put it on that the product is made with plants and this is a good thing. This is a product that should be in everyone’s medicine cabinet.

 

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This past weekend I saw 4 women in the early stages of pregnancy who were struggling with nausea and vomiting. Morning sickness is considered a normal symptom of pregnancy, and even lauded as a “good sign.” While it does indicate higher levels of progesterone necessary for maintaining pregnancy, for some women it can be debilitating. For many, it is so severe that they are unable to work and often resort to western drugs which can be effective, but are not without risks.

In the hands of an experienced acupuncturist, a woman can find significant relief for morning sickness. In my experience, the most helpful protocol is to receive treatment three or four times within a short period of 1-2 weeks, then continue once-weekly treatment through the first trimester. I will also prescribe herbs if they seem necessary, and encourage women to keep their blood sugar as stable as possible by taking bites of crackers, or other carbs throughout the day. Rest is very important in these situations, and I ask my patients to get to bed early and nap when they can. I have a very strong ginger candy that many women swear by as well.

The main points that I use are KI-27, KI-21, KI-6, P6, Ren 14, Ren 12. I will add additional points based on the woman’s current Chinese Medicine pattern. Common additions are St-36, Sp-4, Liv-3, St-44, St-19, St-40.

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Located in the thenar eminence between the thumb and first finger, He gu means Joining Valley or Union Valley. This point is a very powerful and often used point. It is the command point of the face and mouth and can be added to any prescription when that area is affected such as TMJ, tooth pain, headache, etc. Another common use for this point is to ward off colds, or wind, as we say in Chinese Medicine. This point both clears wind on it’s own, and also as the Large Intestine channel is paired with the Lung channel, it can effect the Lung and Wei qi, or immune function. I always include this point when a patient has a cold, or feels one is coming on, regardless of the pattern.

When combined with the point Liver 3, we have what is called the “four gates.” This point combination is especially powerful at moving qi and is used quite frequently for this purpose.

When combined with the points Large Intestine 11 and Large Intestine 15, we have what is called a “chain and lock.” This combination is useful when treating any issues with the arm from tendonitis to numbness to muscle pain.

Large Intestine 4, He gu, is one of several points used to induce labor, and is therefore contraindicated in pregnancy unless labor is desired.

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My family spent some time on the Columbia River this weekend and were blessed with the opportunity to pick cherries at the amazing Hood River Organics CSA. It was a scary evening for the farmers though, thunderstorms raged the entire night, very unusual for the end of July. Rain water sitting on cherries ruins them, they absorb the moisture and then literally explode!! The farmers and their reliable friends got to picking very early that morning in an attempt to save the orchard. When we rolled in around 10am, the entire irrigated section of the orchard had been picked clean. With the crop fan humming away in the background, and the typical River Gorge wind nearly blowing us over, we took to picking at the handful of non-irrigated trees that are reserved for family and friends. Within minutes both of my children were covered in cherry juice from the super-sweet Lamberts. It didn’t take long for us to fill two enormous buckets, despite the number going straight into little bellies. We headed back to Seattle a few hours later with a trunk full of delicious, organic, tree-ripened purple Lamberts and golden-red Rainiers. What a treat!

As delicious as they are, cherries are a food that can also be classified medicinally. Remember, food is medicine too and should be at the very core of a healthy lifestyle.

According to Bob Flaws in The Tao of Healthy Eating, cherries are considered sweet, aromatic and warm, affecting the Spleen, Stomach, Lung, Heart and Kidney channels. Cherries supplement qi, nourish blood, engender fluids, move and transform blood stasis, and dispel wind dampness. They can be used to treat wind heat dry sore throats, qi and blood deficiency, wind damp impediment in the lower half of the body, and numbness and paralysis.

Rebecca Wood explains in The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia that sweet cherries are warming and increase vital energy, toning the Spleen, Liver and Kidneys. They remove excess body acids and blood stagnation when eaten often and can therefore treat gout, paralysis, numbness in the extremities, and rheumatic pain in the lower body.

Cherries are a great source of iron, which vaguely correlates to their status as a blood tonic. They do also contain some phosphorus, potassium, calcium and vitamin A.

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I’ve heard this question a lot over the years. Coming from a culture in which the primary medicine is one-size-fits all, it is not surprising that we have a hard time grasping the way acupuncture works. In Western medicine if you have a particular symptom or disease, there is a specific treatment for that, a drug or a therapy or what-have-you. There is sometimes a bit of tailoring in which, of the 5 drug options, you are given one based on factors that are unique to you. In general though,  each disease has a set treatment, no matter the patient’s constitution or other symptoms.

In Chinese Medicine, the opposite is true. Each person is looked at individually, all symptoms are considered relevant, and the underlying imbalance is treated. We often say, we treat the person not the disease. For instance, if there are 5 people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the Chinese Medicine doctor will look at each of the five individually. Each will get a Chinese Medicine diagnosis, possibly all 5 will be different. One might have qi stagnation causing the IBS, one might have Spleen qi deficiency, one might damp phlegm collecting, one might have too much heat, etc. The doctor will then prescribe points and herbs specific to those five individual imbalances. There are points that move the qi, and do so very well in the digestive system. There are points that build spleen qi, and so on. There would likely be some crossover, but it is very unlikely that each person would receive the same exact prescription of points.  

Acupuncture points do not treat specific diseases, rather, they have the effect of adjusting the imbalances in the body in different ways. Stomach 36 is a powerful digestive point, but western disease diagnoses do not correlate to specific points. Sometimes St 36 would be called for in someone with IBS, sometimes it would not depending on the imbalance in that particular patient. Points are combined in such a way as to bring the individual back into balance thereby eliminating symptoms of dis-ease.

This is why seeing a licenced acupuncturist for acupuncture rather than an MD or Chiropractor with a few hours of “acupuncture training” is so important. While the MD may be able to reduce a little pain using acupuncture needles, to get to the root of the imblance using Chinese Medicine, a differential diagnosis needs to be made so that elegant point combinations can be chosen. Acupuncture was never meant to be practiced in a “this point is good for this disease” way and it is far more effective when used within the broader framework of Chinese Medicine as a whole system of medicine.

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In true Seattle fashion, we have finally reached summer weather after the 4th of July. With temperatures in the upper 70s, and a city almost devoid of air conditioning, we need to find ways to stay cool. One of the ways I keep myself and my family from over-heating is by serving cooling foods for meals, snacks and beverages. Add a slice of cucumber or lemon to your water, use fresh mint in your cooking, serve watermelon for dessert. There are so many cooling foods that are in season right now. These are foods that nourish the yin (the cooling aspect of the body) and clear heat. They also have a high water content, hydration is very important when the temperatures are high.

Food is medicine, cool yourself down with foods from the following list.

Abalone, Aloe Juice, Apple, Asparagus, Bamboo shoots, Banana, Barley, Black Beans, Blackberries, Blueberries, Celery, Chicken Egg Whites, Chrysanthemum Flower Tea, Clams, Cucumber, Crab, Duck, Fish and Fish Roe, Grapefruit, Ham, Hops, Horseradish, Kelp, Kidney Beans, Kiwi, Kohlrabi, Peaches, Plums, Pork, Lemon, Lettuce, Lime, Loquat fruit, Mandarin orange, Mango, Millet, Mint, Mulberries, Mushrooms, Mussels, Nectarines, Oysters, Pear, Peas, Persimmon, Pork, Salt, Seaweed, Sour Plum, Star Fruit, Strawberries, String Beans, Sugar Cane, Sweet Potato, Tangerine, Tofu, Tomato, Vinegar, Water Chestnut, Watermelon

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