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Apr 15

Ways to Prevent a Cold in Chinese Medicine

It’s Autumn already and that crisp cold bite in the air has appeared and with it, the return of sniffles, headaches and sore throats and if we haven’t been looking after ourselves and our immune system is quite compromised, the body aches and pains with chills and fevers of the flu, which can knock us out for many days and have us feeling quite miserable.

In Chinese Medicine, the main cause of common cold is Wind. The common cold caused by Wind is often associated with abnormal or sudden changes in weather, large variations in temperature, the body being wet by rain or blown by wind after sweating.
A few ways that we can minimise the chances of developing a cold are:
  • putting on warm clothes after sweating;
  • drying off and staying warm after getting wet in the rain;
  • wear a scarf to protect the back of our neck which is vulnerable to Wind;
  • being careful not to overwork and tax the immune system;
  • maintain moderate level of exercise to ensure your energy flows smoothly;
  • staying away from ill people as much as possible;
  • having spring onion, ginger and garlic regularly, or if you tend towards feeling hot, having cooling teas with chrysanthemum and/or honeysuckle, which you can buy from a Chinese grocery store; and
  • having acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment to boost weaknesses in your body so that your immune system is strong.

The best time to act is before you get sick! 

Prevention is the best medicine – we know this, yet we often forget it and when we get a cold and are wallowing in our misery, we’ll be able to think of the things that we should have or shouldn’t have done!

Around 4,500 years ago, the Chinese physician Qi Bo wrote,? To take medicine when you are sick is like digging a well only when you are thirsty ?- is it not already too late??


Apr 8

Chinese Medicine Soup Recipe for Postpartum Mothers

My cousin had a gorgeous little girl recently and as is common in Chinese tradition, I wanted to help her by supporting her health. What is it that commonly happens to a woman’s energy and vital substances during labour?What does she need to ensure that her and the newborn are at their optimal level of health?

Much Blood is lost during and after childbirth, resulting in Blood and Qi (energy) deficiency, and therefore, a woman is susceptible to contraction of disease. At this time, Kidney energy and Essence is also low as a result of the pregnancy, and Yang is low due to the energy used to push the baby from the Uterus. The deficiency of Yang means that the woman is in a state of Cold and is also susceptible to being penetrated by cold and having it lodged. It does seem like nothing good for the mother comes out of the pregnancy and birth as it is believed that during a period of approximately 40 days after birth, the Golden Month, illness contracted will stay with a person for the rest of their lives but alternatively, this is also a time when existing illnesses can be eliminated. With the appropriate self-care, a woman can end up healthier than before having the baby.

Most of the issues that occur post-partum are a result of Blood loss. An example of this would be hair loss because there is not enough Blood to nourish the hair or insufficient lactation due to deficient Blood. Postpartum depression is also quite common and is also due to lack of Blood. The Spirit resides in the Heart and when there is not enough Blood in the Heart to nourish the Spirit, lethargy, insomnia, despair, anxiety, sadness, worthlessness, apathy or feeling separated from reality can develop. Therefore, it is vital to have foods that nourish the Blood, some of which include:

  • chicken
  • fish
  • green leafy vegetables
  • eggs
  • raisins
  • sweet rice
  • dried logan fruit

A very simple recipe that I used for a chicken soup to bring to my cousin was:

  • 1 x approx. 1.8kg whole chicken
  • 12 cups of water
  • 60 grams of dried logan fruit (Long Yan Rou)
  • 40 grams of angelica (Dang Gui)
  • Place all ingredients into pot, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Season with salt.

Both the herbal ingredients can be bought from a Chinese grocery store, with the dried logan fruit found in the refrigerated section of the store. The soup is best had several times in a day and will also help prevent joint pain that is common after childbirth as bone soups contain marrow and in addition to nourishing Blood, also nourishes Essence and the Kidneys.

For further information, check out “Traditional Chinese Medicine for Women” by Xiaolan Zhao and if you are having postpartum problems, please see your Chinese Medicine practitioner for some acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to bring you back to good health!

Dec 5

What to Eat to so we can Nourish our Jing, our Life Essence

In Chinese Medicine, Jing is the essence of who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. It is a substance or energy that comes from our parents and from it, our growth and development occur. With weak Kidney Jing, people may experience infertility, chronic miscarriage, low quality sperm count, impotence and low libido as well as lower back pain, premature hair greying, or poor memory and concentration.

In people of traditional Chinese culture, one of their aims in life was to have a long life and the amount and quality of Jing is a good determinant of your longevity. Thus, people were taught to conserve Jing from an early age.

One of the ways was by taking life at a gentle pace, and not rushing around doing so much as is common in modern Western culture. Life doesn’t have to be such that you are sitting in the bush surrounded by birdsong and rustling leaves all the time. What is necessary is an inner quietness amidst any external busyness that happens in your life. This rushing about all the time doesn’t just make us stressed, it exhausts us and consumes Jing.

Jing is also consumed through major trauma such as recovery from an accident or serious illness. Events such as these draw deeply on life reserves.

Men can consume Jing through ejaculation because Jing is tied very closely to reproductive processes. It was encouraged in traditional Chinese thought to have sex without ejaculation to preserve Jing. For men with poor Jing and Kidney energy, it was recommended to limit sexual activity, including masturbation, and to having sex with their partner at their fertile time.

For women, sexual fluids do not affect Jing as much as it does Kidney Yin. It is the menstrual cycle, which affects a woman’s Jing. Any time ovulation occurs, Jing is consumed. It is also used up, along with Qi and Blood, during pregnancy, when a lot of energy is required to form a new human being.

In summary, Jing is consumed in the following ways:

  • Being over busy
  • Recovery from accident or serious illness
  • Excessive sexual activity in men
  • Menstruation and pregnancy in women

One way to nourish Jing is through the foods that we eat.

In general, the foods in nature which are designed to nourish offspring will enhance your Jing, as well as some animal organs and tissues:

  • Royal jelly
  • Eggs of birds e.g. Chickens or ducks
  • Fish eggs or roe
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Pollen
  • Bone marrow, particularly from pig spine
  • Brains
  • Kidneys
  • Oysters, delivery of nutrients to sperm-manufacturing cells
  • Seaweed and algae, includes trace elements for production of gametes and related hormones
  • Artichoke leaf
  • Nettles
  • Oats
  • Raw Milk

Chinese herbal medicine can also nourish Jing and acupuncture can reduce leakages of Jing that occurs with daily living. Please look after your Jing, one of our treasures, by moderating your lifestyle and eating well.

Jun 1

How to Sleep Clean with this Sleep Hygiene Guide

Who doesn’t love that feeling of waking up in the morning, body rested, mind alert and all of your being ready to launch yourself into the day ahead? I sure do love good sleep! A good sleep is something that allows your mind and body to rest and it is essential to maintaining balance in your health – mental, emotional and physical.

I do have times when I have poor sleep – I might have difficulty falling asleep or I toss and turn restlessly through the night. If this continues, I find myself more reactive and irritable, less able to think clearly or be creative, and my body just feels heavy and sluggish. In these times, my first port of call is reviewing my sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene are habits that you develop and maintain to help you to have a good night’s sleep. Common sleeping problems are often caused by bad habits reinforced over years or even decades.

Sleep Environment
  • Maintain a dark room. Use black out curtains or blinds and turning off any devices which emit light.
  • Have a quiet room, or if quiet is not possible, try using some ear plugs.
  • Ensure that the temperature is comfortable. Is the blanket warm enough or is it too warm? Having warm hands and feet when sleeping is important.
  • Is your mattress comfortable? Consider seeing a mattress specialist.
  • Use the bedroom only for sleeping or intimacy. Don’t use it for watching TV, surfing the internet or for talking to friends on the phone.
  • De-clutter your sleep space. A messy sleep space can translate to inner stagnation and contribute to imbalances in Chinese Medicine.

Sleep Routine
  • Sleep and wake at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps to set your body clock. Avoid trying to make up for poor sleep or lack of sleep by sleeping in, though don’t be obsessive about this – occasional staying up late or sleeping in is okay.
  • Get enough early morning sunshine. This also helps to set your body clock.
  • Be asleep by 10:30pm as 11pm – 1am is the time when the Chinese Medicine Liver organ needs to be resting, allowing the circulating Blood to return and be processed.
  • Don’t ignore tiredness. Go to bed when your body tells you to.
  • Exercise daily but no vigorous exercise close to bed time.
  • Relaxing exercise such as yoga or tai chi, or some gentle stretching, before bed can help to relax you.
  • Try not to engage in mentally overly stimulating activities close to bed time.

Sleep No-No’s
  • No screens for one hour before sleep. The blue light affects melatonin levels, which helps us to regulate our sleep cycle.
  • No caffeinated substances e.g. coffee, caffeinated tea, coke, chocolate close to bedtime
  • No sugar close to bedtime
  • Avoid drugs. Nicotine is a stimulant and a sedative, and the initial “kick” causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate. Alcohol is a depressant but it affects your sleep rhythm and the quality of sleep with alcohol in your system is usually poor.
  • Avoid sleeping pills. They can cause daytime sleepiness and doesn’t actually solve the sleep problem. They can also cause a “rebound” effect where your sleep quality is worse when you stop taking them.
  • Avoid napping during the day. This can affect your sleep rhythm.
  • Stay away from large meals close to bed time.
  • Minimise fluid intake close to bedtime if you have a tendency towards night-time urination.

If you can’t fall asleep
  • try a mindfulness app such as Headspace or Smiling Mind.
  • don’t worry about not falling asleep.
  • don’t look at the clock as it increases worry, creating tension.
  • write down any worries that you have or things that you have to do if your mind won’t stop thinking.
  • get up and do something else in another room (with dim lighting) such as reading a book.

If by following these guidelines, you find that your sleep is still not refreshing, there could be other factors such as obstructed breathing (sleep apnoea), pain, digestive issues, stress, anxiety or depression which are contributing to your poor sleep quality. Chinese Medicine, using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, treats all of these conditions and can bring peaceful sleep back into your life.

Jul 25

How to Beat your Cold with Food – Chinese Medicine Style

Lemon and Ginger Tea

Colds are often something that we often just deal with and ride out – we continue to push through doing what we do daily and “soldier on”. They usually happen when we are tired, run-down and our immune system is isn’t able to protect ourselves from the viruses and bacteria out there.

In Chinese Medicine, Qi is the energy that flows through our body. There are four levels of Qi in the body and the outermost level is called the Wei Qi, which is the defensive Qi of the body. When we have become run down, overworked, eaten poorly, not exercised and generally just not looking after ourselves, our Wei Qi weakens and we become more susceptible to getting a cold. If you catch colds often, this is a sign that there is an underlying deficiency in your body, which Chinese Medicine can help you with.

A cold generally manifests fairly suddenly in a couple of ways, cold-natured or heat-natured, and there are steps that we can take to get rid of it so we can get back quicker to what doing what we love!

Cold-natured signs and symptoms:
  • feeling more chilled than fever-like
  • phlegm is clear or white
  • aversion to cold
  • no or limited sweating
  • sneezing
  • stiff neck and/or body aches
When you feel some or all of the above signs and symptoms, the foods to have are:
  • ginger
  • onions
  • garlic
  • hot peppers
  • soups
  • ginger tea
In addition, you can also apply sweating therapy by drinking a cup of ginger tea, having a hot shower, putting on lots of clothes and covering yourself with blankets to get yourself to sweat. You don’t need to sweat excessively and do not apply sweating therapy if you are severely weak or dehydrated.

Heat-natured signs and symptoms:

  • feeling more fever-like than chilled
  • phlegm is yellow or green
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • thirst
  • body aches, headaches
Some foods to have when you have the above are:
  • mung beans
  • apples
  • spinach
  • peppermint tea
  • chrysanthemum tea

Overall, if you have either cold or heat signs and symptoms:

  • eat less food
  • drink more warm fluids
  • drink honey (particularly raw honey), which has antibacterial and antiviral properties, with lemon and its Vitamin C to boost your immune system
  • keep your neck covered
  • rest when tired

Above all else, prevention is the best cure and make sure you look after yourself, rest well and do things for yourself that nourish you!

Jun 13

Winter and the Element of Water

Winter is a time when the essence in nature is revealed to us. The trees have lost their flowers and leaves, and only the bareness of the trunk and branches are left. There is stillness, an inwardness, as nature seeks to conserve its energy to be ready for the next season of growth.

Winter Tree

For us, it is a time for inward reflection, to get back to the essence of ourselves. It is a time of nurturing the self by meditating, reducing the amount of activity you do, and going to sleep early and waking later. Without enough energy saved, the growth of Spring will be stunted and full potential unreached.

With plenty of reserves, we find that we are more courageous and have strength of will. Without enough energy stored, however, the emotion of “fear” can excessively predominate. We do all need a certain amount of fear to make sure that we stay alive – for instance, being fearful of moving cars in case we get run over or pausing to consider whether to eat that sandwich you made a week ago! Where the Water energy is unbalanced, the type of fear felt would be that of not having enough and of not being prepared for the future.

There are some amazing acupuncture points (well, even more so than the other amazing acupuncture points) on the Water meridians, the Kidney and Bladder meridians, that can lift and regenerate your spirit, just when you have been completely exhausted by life and the will to hold onto it is weak. They can bring you back to a place where you feel safe and you can find the peace and strength to allow yourself to begin your healing.

Some signs of Water being out of balance could be:

  • lower back pain
  • knee pain or weakness
  • sexual problems
  • fatigue or shortness of breath
  • anxiety or excessive fear
  • inflexibility or resistance to change

A few things that you can do to work with the energy of Winter are:

  • sleeping early and rising late, at least no earlier than the sunrise
  • spend more time on your inner self such as meditation, reading literature that nourishes the soul, being still and more aware of yourself and your surroundings
  • include more “warming” foods in your diet such as whole grains, squashes, beans, peas, root vegetables and garlic
  • spend time with people who are close to you, deepening relationships in a quiet and relaxed manner

Gumenick, N. (1997). The Five Elements: Retrieved 12 June 2015, from

Franglen, N. (2006). Keepers of the soul: the five guardian elements of acupuncture, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Apr 25

Autumn and the Element of Metal and the Element of Metal

Autumn is the season of Metal energy. It is a time when the fruit of Late Summer has been harvested and trees drop their leaves, to return to the Earth, enriching it for future growth in the cycle of the Elements. This energy of getting rid of the unneeded keeps us unclogged and allows us to be able to receive the pure and see the essence of who we are.

Grief is the emotion of Metal and expressing our grief appropriately allows us to experience the loss and separation needed, and then let go. It helps us to get rid of what we no longer need and start afresh. When our Metal element is unbalanced within us, grief can be excessive and constant or cannot be expressed at all.

The Large Intestine, the “Drainer of the Dregs”, is one of the Organs associated with Metal and its function is to expel waste products and any toxicity in our body. However, it does this more than at a physical level and applies to the mental and spirit levels, too. In the process of growing up and just day-to-day living, we often have had to deal with a lot of garbage and if we don’t remove it, it creates a toxic dump, clogging us up and making us mentally and spiritually constipated. This doesn’t allow us to experience the purity and beauty around us.

The Lung is the other Organ associated with Metal and it receives the pure, like the crisp Autumn air. It inspires from the Heaven, allowing the new and fresh in. It is the “Receiver of Heavenly Qi”, which allows us to receive pure Qi, connect to spirit and have a deep and real connection to others.

When the Metal element is unbalanced, some of the physical symptoms you can experience include skin problems, asthma, cough, bronchitis, emphysema, constipation and diarrhoea. However, underlying this, we can tend to feel a lack of spontaneity and freshness, depressed, stubborn and isolated.

Metal adds richness to the Earth and in us, it is related to our own sense of richness, our own self-worth. We cannot see how precious we are or how we have something meaningful to contribute. People with an unbalanced Metal element will often be attempting to seek to prove their worth by gaining status, power and assets, which they find still leaves them unfulfilled. They often find it difficult to “let go” because the respect, recognition and quality they seek is gained from  outside of themselves through possessions, achievements, attachments and attitudes.

Treating in Autumn is more effective for the Metal element and you can support your own Metal element by noticing the energy of the season and living with it.

  • Begin to rest and quieten, acting and speaking when necessary, taking care not to overexert yourself.
  • Go through cluttered areas and clear it – give what you no longer need to friends, donate or sell.
  • Review your attitudes, including resentments, jealousies, hatred, envies, and try to resolve them and let them go.
  • Step outside and breathe in the fresh, crisp Autumn air every day and as you breathe in, allow it purify you as you and as you breathe out, allow negativity and impurity to leave you.

Gumenick, N. (1997). The Five Elements: Retrieved 20 April 2015, from

Franglen, N. (2006). Keepers of the soul: the five guardian elements of acupuncture, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.



Feb 25

Late Summer and the Element of Earth

We’ve all heard of the seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – but what about Late Summer? Is this even a season? In Chinese Medicine, this is the season that sits between Summer and Autumn. It is a time past the budding flowers of Spring, past the time of growth and maturation of Summer and into the time of harvest, the fruits of which nurture us as the earth nurtured the fruit. In Chinese Medicine Five Element theory, this time is associated with the element of Earth. We all consist of the Five Elements which are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water and we’ll see how the Earth element displays itself in us.

Late Summer and the Element of Earth

The Organs associated with the Earth element are the Spleen and the Stomach. These Organs have functions which are physiological but have an equivalent psycho-emotional function.

The Spleen is the Controller of Transforming and Transporting. It converts food and drink into Qi (energy) and Blood, and transports this food essence and fluid around the body. When an imbalance occurs, fluids may accumulate and cause conditions such as oedema, fluid on the lungs, and aching and stiff joints. Mentally and spiritually, when the Spleen is not in balance, this can result in thoughts not being processed and distributed appropriately. Sometimes, there can be thinking that’s not converted into action, poor memory and concentration, or thoughts and worries that can seem obsessive.

The Stomach is the Controller of Rotting and Ripening. Food is taken in through the mouth, chewed, swallowed and enters the Stomach, which continues to break the food down so the beneficial parts of it can be used to create Qi. A healthy Stomach also allows us to digest mentally and spiritually as well, enabling us to take in information, break it down, process it and absorb it. When the Stomach is out of balance, physically, a person can experience symptoms such as nausea, hiccups, vomiting and bloating.

There are times of the day when particular Organs have more Qi and function optimally. The time of the Stomach is 7am – 9am and the Spleen is 9am – 11am. It is best to have breakfast in the hours of the Stomach and then allow the Spleen to digest the food in the hours afterwards. If a person’s Stomach and Spleen are weak, they may find that they have a poor appetite in the morning and are also more tired at those same times in the evening, between 7pm – 11pm.

Enjoy this time of Earth – enjoying this pause between the Yang of Summer and the Yin of Autumn. It is a time of nourishing yourself in preparation for a quieter part of the year.

Oct 5

Spring and the Element Wood

Chinese character for "Wood

Did you know that even 5000 years ago, the Chinese knew that Spring was time to get things done! Still to this day, they believe that all of nature and us as human beings are made of up 5 fundamental energies – the 5 Elements. These 5 Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. In my training as a 5 Element Acupuncturist, I could learn more about people and the flow of life by watching the 5 Elemtns as they produced the 5 seasons of the year than any of my textbooks.

Let’s look at the element Wood. It creates the season of Spring; this is the beginning of nature’s cycle, a time of new beginnings and growth. Wood is the energy that pushes the new grass through the snow, produces new branches from old wood and the new leaves of the year. Spring bursts forward with hope and optimism, offering renewal after the quiet still time of Winter.

The ancient Chinese also believed that there are 12 main acupuncture meridians in our bodies and likened these meridians to officials in a kingdom, each official in charge of a part of our personality as well as our physical being. Wood energy can be found in two of these meridians: The Gall Bladder, known as “The Upright Official who Excels in Judgement”; and the Liver, known as “The Official in Charge of Planning”.

So what are these Wood meridians doing in us? They are helping us look toward the future, making plans and take decisions. Wood is the part of us that sets boundaries with others and helps us have a healthy relationship with anger and assertion – it is also the part of us that senses what is right and wrong.

When our Wood energy is not working, we can feel a little hopeless, have trouble making decisions or even seeing what the future has in store for us. Poor Wood energy can lead to procrastination even when we know they are the things we really want to do.

Spring is the time of the year when these meridians are at their best, ready to wake us up from the quiet time of Winter. Like the new green buds on the trees, we can be bursting with new ideas, ready to make plans and have the energy to make them happen. It’s Spring, so let’s get going!

Thank you to Gye Bennetts, my teacher in Classical 5 Element Acupuncture

Sep 8

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival: Mooncake Heaven

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival for 2014!

This is a time of family gathering and giving thanks to them. Traditionally, it is also a time of gathering of the harvest and giving thanks for the abundance nature has provided. It is also a time of big banquets, followed by my favourite once-a-year dessert, “Moon Cake”.


Moon Cakes are a big feature of this festival, their roundness symbolising completeness and unity. The cakes are gifted to each other and are shared amongst family and friends, and this sharing is a show of the completeness and unity that moon cakes represent.

Generally, they are made with lotus seed, which in Chinese Medicine, has astringent, sweet and neutral properties and targets the Chinese Medicine organs of Spleen, Kidney and Heart.

The sweetness supports and nourishes the Spleen, aiding your digestive system as well as any diarrhoea associated with weak Spleen energy.

The Kidneys benefit from the astringent nature of the lotus seed and helps a person to keep their Kidney Essence, which is a person’s vital energy. In men, it can help with weak sexual function and in women, with excessive vaginal discharge.

The seed also has calming properties and can subdue restlessness, palpitations and insomnia, particularly if consumed with the seed kernel.

So, as well as being a celebratory food, Moon Cakes have positive health properties, too, though bear in mind that in current times, there is more sugar in them than traditionally, so do enjoy it but in moderation!