I was not a “cool” kid in school. I didn’t sit at the popular table. Yes, I played varsity sports but I was also in school plays, Key Club, Mock Trial, and Speech Team. I didn’t have an Acura Integra (the car of choice at my high school) and I definitely didn’t get invited to parties. Which is why I have to write this.

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How do you eat for the seasons? Why should I try? Well, the Chinese philosophy is that human beings are part of nature and just like nature is affected by the changes that occur with the seasons (plants turn to seeds, bears hibernate, etc), humans are also affected by changes in nature. So, for optimal health, the theory is that you should eat foods that mirror or mimic what the outside world is doing.

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In Chinese culture, it is also used as an herbal medicine. The ancient texts describe the healthiest seasonal drinking habits: “In summer drink green tea, winter black tea and in Spring and Autumn, flower teas.” You can think of it this way: in the Summer, the weather is generally hot and green tea is cooling in nature. In the winter months, we need extra warmth and black tea will do the trick. In the Spring and Autumn, the temperature should be, well, temperate, and you’ll want the neutral flavor and properties of flower teas, such as chrysanthemum and hibiscus. Let’s drink to your health!

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In Chinese philosophy, all foods have a particular action on the body. I kid with my patients that there is usually a point, an herb, or a food for “that.” (Just like the joke, “there’s an app for that.”) Anyway, with this belief, the Chinese have been able to utilize food as medicine for thousands of years! In fact, when someone gets ill, the first line of defense is food! Intentionally combining foods can help you get the most out of them. For example: spinach Strengthens the Liver and Builds Liver Blood, but if you are feeling irritable, too much spinach may increase your anger. So, if you balance the spinach with some cooling tofu, you can forget about being a grump. Just think about the last time you went to a Japanese restaurant…they served you sushi with ginger, knowing that raw fish is cold and ginger is hot, this method balances their natures and may even prevent you from getting food poisoning.

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This is the season when you can start planning your vacations! Hopefully, you’re checking your calendar to see when you can get away for some rest and relaxation. Before you go, make sure that you are familiar with this point for nausea: Nei Guan, Inner Gate, Pericardium 6, or PC 6. Several studies support the use of acupressure on this point to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting from motion sickness. In fact, the anesthesiologist from my last surgery uses press-acupuncture needles on his patients for post-surgical nausea and vomiting!

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What do you do if your digestion just feels “off?” Maybe you’ve had too much cold water or you went a little frozen-yogurt happy at the new self-serve joint. Or maybe you have a sniffle and cough that won’t go away or you’ve been a little too friendly with the latrine of late. Think about ginger. Ginger, known in Chinese medicine as Sheng Jiang, is something that everyone should have in his or her pantry or fridge. And nowadays, with the tubes of already crushed, fresh ginger, there is no reason not to! Ginger increases your immunity, helps reduce colds and the flu, relieves abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can put a stop to nasal congestion and post-nasal drip-induced coughing. So, throw a little crushed ginger in hot water to make a tea or try my favorite recipe to prevent the common cold:

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Have you ever woken up with a stiff neck or a “crick in your neck?” All you can think of is, “I must have slept wrong!” Well, even though this type of pain is usually short-lived, there is something that you can do to loosen those neck muscles. Luo Zhen to the rescue! This wonderful point literally means “Stiff Neck,” and it does exactly as it says. It helps to loosen up the muscles in the neck, like the scalenes, the upper trapezius, and the sternocleidomastoid, and helps dull the pain. This point is found on the top of the hand, between the index and middle fingers. Find it by starting at the web of your fingers and pop just over the hump of the knuckles. Look for a “tender” spot, or an area that feels like it is bruised. Unlike most acupuncture points for pain, I find this point to be most effective when used on the same side of the neck pain. I like to press deeply in little, tiny circles and think, “I am sending my energy to the deepest bone-level.” I know, it sounds kind of weird, but I want the point to work and it won’t work if you are just thinking and pressing superficially.

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Headaches and Migraines: I have been a long-time sufferer of both and I am up to “here” (pointing to my head) with them! So, what do you do if you have a headache coming on or feel the aura of a migraine? Think: Acupressure!

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Gou Qi Zi (go chee zuh), also known as the Wolf Berry, Lycium berry, or Goji berry, this fruit has been gaining world-wide attention for its antioxidant properties. However, it has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese for its anti-aging attributes. It Nourishes the Liver and the Kidney Yin and the Liver Blood while also Replenishing the Kidney Jing and Moistening Lung Dryness. What does that mean to you? Well, it means that gou qi zi can prevent back pain and knee pain, early graying of the head hair, blurred vision, dizziness, tinnitus, and anemia. It can also be used to treat chronic cough and diabetes. My favorite way to eat gou qi zi is by putting about a handful of it in my morning oatmeal just like you would raisins. Or, to be ultra-healthy, I mix it in with my chrysanthemum tea! Really, you can’t go wrong with this mildly sweet and tangy fruit.

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Did you know that flowers aren’t just beautiful to look at? They are actually good for the health of your eyes as well! Chrysanthemum flower, Ju Hua in Mandarin, has cooling and nourishing effects on the eyes. Drinking chrysanthemum tea can help to relieve headaches, fevers, and the common cold (with sore throat and fever). Chrysanthemum is also used for red and painful eyes, poor eyesight, blurred vision, dry eyes, and glaucoma. For a soothing eye treatment, soak a clean washcloth in a cooled bowl of chrysanthemum tea and gently place the wrung-out wash cloth (folded in thirds) on the eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. Not only will your eyes feel refreshed, but you will feel rested as well!

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