The Spirit of Renewal: Spring and Traditional Chinese Medicine

100_3023Spring: It is the long-awaited change of winter to spring. Seeds sprout, flowers bloom, and the sun warms the earth. There is a sense of renewal and new life all around.

While winter was a time to conserve energy and reduce activity, spring is a time of regeneration, new beginnings, and a renewal of spirit.

The Principle of the Five Elements

The five elements refer to wood, fire, earth, metal, and water in Eastern philosophy. The Principle of the Five Elements (known as the Wu Hsing in Chinese) describes the flow of Qi and the balance of yin and yang.

According to the principle, all change – in the universe and in your body – occurs in five distinct stages. Each of these stages is associated with a particular time of year, a specific element in nature, and a pair of organs in the body. Change links together the seasons of the year, aspects of nature, and your body’s organs and bodily processes. A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine uses this principle to diagnose and treat health problems, linking specific foods, herbs, and acupuncture points to the restoration of yin-yang and Qi.


Spring is the ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation for overall health and well-being. As spring is represented by the wood element and includes the liver and its complementary organ, the gallbladder, these two organs are usually the primary targets for springtime cleansing and health regimens.

Element: Wood
Color: Green
Nature: Yang
Organs: Liver, Gallbladder
Emotion: Anger

Learn more about the Liver and Liver Qi Stagnation

Put Some Spring into Your Step

Spring corresponds to the “Wood” element, which in turn is conceptually related to the liver and gallbladder organs. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth flowing of Qi (energy) throughout the body. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. So, for optimum health this spring, move your Qi!

Stretch – The liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Incorporate a morning stretch into your routine. Try yoga or tai qi.

Eye Exercises – The liver opens into the eyes. Although all the organs have some connection to the health of the eyes, the liver is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for extended periods of time and do eye exercises.

Eat Green – Green is the color of the liver and of springtime. Eating young plants – fresh, leafy greens, sprouts, and immature cereal grasses – can improve the liver’s overall functions and aid in the movement of qi.

Taste Sour – Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the liver’s qi. Put lemon slices in your drinking water, use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing. Garnish your sandwich with a slice of dill pickle.

Do more outdoor activities – Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that liver qi stagnation. Try hiking or take up golf.

Enjoy milk thistle tea – Milk thistle helps protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury.

Get Acupuncture treatments – Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help improve the overall health of your liver as well as treat stress, anger and frustration, which are often associated with liver qi disharmony.

By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

Why do we feel healthier and happier when we spend time in nature?

Have you ever wondered why you feel healthier and happier when you stroll through the trees or frolic by the sea? Is it just that you’re spending time away from work, de-stressing and taking in the view? Or is there more to it?

For more than 20 years, scientists have been trying to determine the mechanisms by which exposure to biodiversity improves health. Japanese scientists pioneered the search when they travelled to the island of Yakushima, famous for its biodiversity.

The Japanese already had a name for the experience of well-being in nature: shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”.

We do know that a diverse ecosystem supports a varied and beneficial microbial community living around and inside us.

We also know that exposure to green space, even within urban environments, increases our physical and mental well-being. But what are the mechanisms?

The forest air

The Japanese researchers suggested that we are taking in beneficial substances when we breathe forest air.

Research has identified three major inhaled factors that can make us feel healthier. These factors are beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions.

From birth to the grave, beneficial bacteria surround us; they live in the environment and, importantly, in the air we breathe. We also share almost our entire body with them. The more interaction we have with them, the happier and healthier we are.

This is in part due to our gut-dwelling bacteria, which break down the food we cannot digest and produce substances that benefit us both physically and mentally.

Plants and the bacteria living on them can produce essential oils to fight off harmful microorganisms. These are referred to collectively as phytoncides, literally, “plant-derived exterminators”.

Research on the health benefits of plant essential oils is in its infancy. But one recent study found that a phytoncide from Korean pine trees improved the health and bacterial make-up of pigs.

Notwithstanding some of the pseudoscience that gets wrapped around negative ion generating machines, there is evidence that negative air ions may influence mental outlook in beneficial ways. There are relatively higher levels of negative air ions in forested areas and close to bodies of water. This may factor into the benefits of walking in a forest or near the ocean.

But as the German writer Goethe once said: “Nature has neither kernel nor shell; she is everything at once.”

Bacteria, essential oils and negative ions interact and influence each other. For example, negative ions and phytoncides may dictate the microbial make-up within a natural environment. There is evidence that this could also be taking place in the human gut.

More to be done

Nature-relatedness, or biophilia in which an individual feels connected to nature, has been linked with better health.

But we have a long way to go before we can more fully understand the mechanisms by which an innate love of nature can benefit our health. An important part of this discussion – an overlooked one in our opinion – is further understanding of an individual’s connection to nature.

Psychologists have convincingly demonstrated connections between nature relatedness and mental well-being. But how does a greater personal affinity to nature interact with dietary habits, personal microbiome, physical activity levels and many other lifestyle variables that might be intertwined with having such an affinity?

In the meantime, while scientists turn over stones and search for important mechanistic clues – including those related to biodiversity – there are many simple ways to capitalise on our biophilia.

Why not run in the park or by a river instead of on a treadmill, or take a walk through a park on the way to work or at lunchtime?

Critically, there is increasing evidence that we can help shape our children’s mental and physical health by exposing them to more green environments as they work, rest and play. The US-based Children and Nature Network is a great resource of research news and activities bringing children and nature together.

In the World Health Organization report Connecting Global Priorities – Biodiversity and Human Health, released in December last year, it was concluded that: “Considering ‘microbial diversity’ as an ecosystem service provider may contribute to bridging the chasm between ecology and medicine/immunology [… ] the relationships our individual bodies have with our microbiomes are a microcosm for the vital relationships our species shares with countless other organisms with which we share the planet.”

It is easy to see that discussions of natural environments and human health are no mere matter of intellectual fancy.

In a paper published last month in Journal of Physiological Anthropology, we’ve called for more research into the links between biodiversity and human physical and mental well-being, particular in relation to childhood, that most formative of times.

Wouldn’t it be good if by nurturing our environment we were also nurturing our children’s future health?

Written by: Jeffrey Craig and Susan L. Prescott

Giving birth to Shao Yang Qi “Young Yang Qi”

QigongI love to share the seasonal advice from Master Liu He: she always gives very practical advice.  I admit that I have a hard time following all of it, but I do my best! Perhaps you will find some pearls of wisdom in her words as well.

With the beginning of the Chinese Lunar  New Year, we all give birth to Shao Yang Qi “Young Yang Qi”.

Just as giving birth to a new baby, this “Young” Yang needs to be tended and developed for the yang to grow through the seasons.

In order to protect your Qi baby or young yang energy, keep the following suggestions in mind as you tend to this new energy allowing growth:

1. Stay warm. In some areas the weather is beginning to warm however you want to keep your feet and legs warm. Not wearing sandals and shorts.

2. Wear loose clothes and relax as much as possible. Do not overexert yourself.

3. Practicing Qigong for the Liver and Gallbladder. Here is the Youtube link for Liver Purification Qigong. Jade Woman is also another form to practice at this time of year.

4. Walk gently for 30-45 minutes outside. No excessive sports or sweating.

5. Drink mung bean juice after breakfast.

6. Eat a small amount of sweet flavored foods to facilitate the gentle rising of the Liver Qi. Do not eat a  lot of sour flavored foods as this draws the Liver Qi in and down.

7. Do not eat spicy foods. Spicy foods contain a lot of heat and has potential to harm the Liver Qi.

8. Go to bed a little later then in winter however not later then 10:30pm.

9. Continue to soak feet in warm water before bed.

Wishing you a happy birth Qi!

Master Liu He

Happy New Year!

On February 8, 2016 we will shift out of the year of the nurturing Yin Wood Sheep and into the year of the passionate Yang Fire Monkey.

As the name suggests, the year of the Yang Fire Monkey is all about having fun, taking risks, being proactive and going after what you truly desire.

Yang energy is action based energy, so 2016 will really favor making bold decisions, getting ahead and staying assertive.

When abused, however, the Year of the Fire Monkey can leave you financially ruined, left behind, or stuck in hot water.

The Fire Monkey knows exactly how to get what it wants and is not afraid to play games in order to get it, so just be mindful over getting sucked into this energy.

Another thing to be mindful of in the year of the Fire Monkey is to avoid getting stuck in a repetitive pattern or cycle.

Sometimes the monkey, as smart as he is, can get stuck in leaping in a circle again and again and wondering why he is not moving forward.

The year of the Fire Monkey can also be unpredictable, so try not to be too rigid in your plans this year as things are likely to surprise you.

It may also be helpful to keep a sense of humor this year, as the cheeky Fire Monkey has a big bag of tricks to use and may send you on a bit of a roller-coaster in order to get you where you need to be.

In matters of love and relationships, the year of the Fire Monkey favours fun social gatherings, meeting new people and forming new friendships. This would definitely be the year to look for love within your own friendship circle.

By nature, the Fire Monkey is flirtatious, passionate and lively. This year may bring a lot of short, passionate romances as well the desire to explore your sexuality.

Long term relationships can be strained under the Fire Monkey due to issues surrounding trust, ego, jealousy and control. However, when channeled positively, this energy can bring excitement, a stronger sense of intimacy and growth.

The Fire Monkey is here to shake up some energy and help us all to see things with a fresh, new perspective.

2016 is expected to be an innovative and powerful year and those who are able to go with the flow, make bold choices and keep their eyes on their target are likely to do well with the energy of the Fire Monkey.

In Chinese Astrology, the year of the Fire Monkey is most fortunate for those born under the sign of the Dragon, Rat, Snake and Monkey.


5 reasons you should get on a yoga mat, today

I love yoga and have been practicing regularly for the past 20+ years. I prefer Iyengar yoga because it emphasizes alignment and because, for me, it is a style that helps me feel grounded and centered. I have not experienced the same effect from Ashtanga-style yoga. Here is an article wriitten by Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, a naturopath and licensed acupuncturist.

Yoga isn’t simply a series of exercises in which you learn to twist your body into a pretzel; it’s also known to have remarkable health benefits. In its original form, practiced for thousands of years in Hindu tradition, yoga was seen as an integral part of a transformative way of life. Although it has been significantly modified in its adoption by Western culture, yoga as we know it today can still help people support their health and well-being.

Yoga has the potential to not only increase your awareness of your body, but also to help you be more conscious as you move through life. Researchers have found that yoga, like meditation, has significant effects on decreasing stress and tension. It can also promote greater vitality and increase your quality of life in the following ways:

1. Increased flexibility. By doing yoga regularly, you can “recruit” new elastic tissue to your tendons and muscles, which in turn can allow you to move in ways that you may not have been able to move in years. This can significantly decrease your risk of getting injured while working out or having fun. One study found that people who practiced yoga regularly for only 8 weeks had a 35 percent increase in flexibility. With improved flexibility, you may notice that chronic aches and pains subside or disappear entirely. Remember “the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone”? Well, when you create greater overall flexibility, a pain you’ve been feeling in your knee may go away simply because you’ve loosened your lower back, buttocks and thigh muscles. Joint pains are often related to reduced flexibility, which can lead to poor structural alignment, and yoga is the perfect exercise for ironing out all those aches and pains from your body.

2. Support for your posture. Many yoga exercises build muscles in your core that are important when you’re sitting or standing. And since yoga brings awareness to your bodily movements, it can help you “check in” with your body when you’re slumping or slouching, so you can make the right corrections. When you have great posture, you feel better, you’re less prone to injuries, you look better and less energy is required to hold your body in one position for long periods of time.

3. Prevention of arthritis. People often get arthritis because of uneven wear and tear on their cartilage, due to poor structural alignment and lack of use. When you do yoga, you can put your muscles and joints through their full range of motion, which bathes these tissues with blood, oxygen and nutrients. You can also loosen your tendon and ligament attachments, which creates additional space for your joints to go through even further range of motion.

4. Helping to build and maintain bone. Some yoga poses are weight-bearing, which means they stress your muscles in ways that stimulate your bone cells to lay down new bone. This can help you prevent osteoporosis, or porous bones, in your senior years. Because yoga also reduces stress, it could have additional positive impacts on bones by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol, which in excess can reduce bone density.

5. Increased sense of peace and happiness. When you practice yoga consistently, you can affect many brain chemicals that promote sensations of well-being. Yoga has been shown to not only decrease cortisol, but also increase serotonin (your “feel-good” neurotransmitter) and boost dopamine (a brain chemical that can induce feelings of happiness and hopefulness).

Yoga is delightfully accessible; it doesn’t require lots of fancy equipment. You can go far with just a yoga mat, some yoga straps and a few yoga blocks. You can do it at any age, and do it anywhere that allows you enough space to move. To get started, you can purchase a yoga DVD, follow a book’s guidelines, or take a class. Remember that yoga can be more than just a form of exercise. It can be a time you set aside to check in with yourself – and ultimately it can become a way of life.


Why Is RoundUp Not Labeled as Carcinogenic?

PesticidesI have copied part of an email I received from SierraRise. While the link to sign this petition is  temporary, the information about RoundUp and glyphosate is permanently relevant. Monsanto says that RoundUp is safe for humans because humans don’t have a shikimate pathway which is used by plants and bacteria to produce tryptophan, phenylalanine and tyrosine. The problem is that the bacteria in our guts do have a shikimate pathway and use it to produce the above nutrients. We depend on them for this and this is part of the reason why glyphosate causes health problems in humans. Please read the following exerpt from SierraRise:

Chemical giant Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup, has all but obliterated the monarch butterfly population.1 To be more precise, the Center for Food Safety has said that the monarch population has declined by 90 percent in less than 20 years!

And it doesn’t stop there. The key ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate, has been linked to a host of environmental and health issues. The effects of it are so dangerous that California just became the first state to announce its intent to label glyphosate as a chemical “known to cause cancer.”

The evidence against Monsanto’s Roundup is mounting. Tell EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy to follow the example of California’s bold leadership. It’s time to label glyphosate as cancer-causing and begin the process of imposing stronger regulations on the chemical.

Glyphosate doesn’t just kill weeds. The chemical has also been linked to a rise in celiac disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, cancer and others conditions.5 Despite these findings, the EPA still considers the chemical to be safe. This could have something to do with Monsanto’s corporate lobbyists and the company’s financial backing to fight against regulations like these for years.

The benefits for Monsanto are not enough to justify the potential long-term risks glyphosate and Roundup pose to our health and the environment. Tell the EPA to label glyphosate as a known carcinogen.

German breast milk unsafe after Glyphosate findings

breastfeedingWhile this study is very small, it is cause for alarm. Glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp, helps heavy metals cross the blood-brain barrier.  Heavy metals in the brain can cause a variety of neurological, behavioral and memory issues. They are not easy to remove from the brain once they have taken up residence there.

Glyphosate, the toxic chemical found in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, has now been found in the breast milk of German women.

Glyphosate is proven to cause a myriad of ills and is appearing at alarming levels in human beings.

The Green Party warned on Friday about the health risks of breast-feeding after traces of a substance found in weed-killer were found in breast milk.

The Green party made their warning after testing the breast milk of 16 women from a variety of German regions.

Traces of glyphosate, a chemical used in weed-killers, amounting to between 0.210 and 0.432 nanograms per mililitre (PPB) were recorded.

For breast milk testing results for Glyphosate from the U.S. in 2014, click here.

In drinking water a quantity of no more than 0.100 nanograms of the substance is allowed.

Irene Witte, professor of toxicology at the University of Oldenburg described the findings as “intolerable.”

“I would never have guessed that the quantities are so high,” she said.

Test Yourself and Your Family for Glyphosate Residues

Witte warned that no conclusions should be drawn from tests on 16 women, but added that this was a first indication that there is a problem. She called for the tests to be broadened to included a larger sample set of breast-feeding women.

The extent to which glyphosate is harmful to one’s health is still contested, but in March the World Health Organisation’s cancer research programme designated the substance as “likely carcinogenic.”

Witte said that if the chemical is proven to be carcinogenic then any exposure could be dangerous.

“There is not upper limit you can then put on the quantity. Every molecule could cause cancer.”

The chair of the Environmental Committee in the Bundestag (German parliament) Bärbel Höhn of the Green Party, called for government action.

“The government needs to take glyphosate out of circulation until the question of its links to cancer has been cleared up,” she said.

Posted on: Saturday, August 15th 2015
Posted by: Green Med Info Reporter
Originally published on

Smells like Hawaii (and benzyl acetate)

Febreze_air_freshenersMany of us are not aware of the potential harmful effects of artificial fragrances.  I see a glimmer of hope that SC Johnson is being more forthcoming with the chemicals behind their scents.


Smells like Hawaii (and benzyl acetate)
By Rachel Abrams in NYT 6/8/15

SC Johnson, the maker of Glade air fresheners, has decided to tell consumers more about the chemicals they are breathing.

On Monday, the company disclosed ingredients in the fragrances used in more than 200 of its air fresheners, candles and scented oils on its website. Companies have increasingly responded to safety concerns not from government regulators, but from customers who demand to know more about everyday products like moisturizers and cleaning products.

Kelly Semrau, the SC Johnson senior vice president for global corporate affairs, said, “We just feel that transparency in this area is the right thing to do.”

Customers have already been able to see specific dyes, waxes and other ingredients used in Glade’s various air fresheners and candles. But the chemicals behind scents like “Aruba wave” and “Hawaiian breeze” have largely been a mystery. Some of the ingredients for Aruba wave, for instance, include 2-t-butylcyclohexyl acetate, 2,6-dimethyl-7-octen-2-ol, allyl caproate, benzyl salicylate, ethyl 2,2-dimethyl hydrocinnamyl and ethyl hexanoate.

“Fragrance disclosure is a really big deal and consumers have been asking for it for a really long time,” said Janet Nudelman, the director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund.

Typically, a fragrance is listed simply as “fragrance,” even though each fragrance could contain hundreds of individual chemicals. SC Johnson buys its fragrances from fragrance houses, which are known for closely guarding the formulas of their scents.

Fragrance ingredients also are often exempted from the disclosure requirements that apply to other chemicals, like those used in cosmetic products like perfumes and lipsticks.

SC Johnson will disclose ingredients in two ways. When there are more than 20 chemicals in a fragrance, it will disclose the top 10, or it will disclose the highest concentrations down to 0.09 percent of the formula, “whichever provides the most information,” the company said in a statement.

“It’s a good first step but it doesn’t go far enough,” Ms. Nudelman said, saying that many of the chemicals her group is concerned about have effects at much lower doses than what SC Johnson is disclosing.

A handful of Glade products are excluded from the new policy. Ms. Semrau said that those products’ scents came from companies that SC Johnson no longer worked with and they would be phased out. The company said it planned to expand its fragrance disclosures to other brands, including Pledge, Windex, Shout and Scrubbing Bubbles.

Plastic cling wrap or aluminum foil?

wrapThis is an article from by Nina Rastogi that I found to be enlightening on the dilemma of how to store leftovers.

What’s the most eco-friendly choice for storing leftovers: plastic cling wrap or aluminum foil?

Judging by conversations the Lantern has had with her colleagues, most people seem to believe intuitively that aluminum foil is better for the planet, maybe because plastics are made from fossil fuels and we’ve heard so much about how they’re polluting the oceans. Plus, foil can be rinsed and reused with relative ease, or sometimes even recycled at the curb, while plastic wrap is usually thrown away.

But as we discussed in our analysis of beer containers, aluminum has a heavy manufacturing footprint. It takes a whole lot of energy to mine bauxite ore from the earth and then process it: Producing 1 ton of aluminum ingots requires 170 million British thermal units of energy and spits out about 12 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. By comparison, producing 1 ton of low density polyethylene pellets requires just 17 percent as much energy and generates 12 percent as much greenhouse gas. (Consumer cling wrap used to be made out of polyvinyl chloride, a substance reviled by many environmentalists, but now it’s nearly all LDPE or its tougher cousin, linear LDPE.) Making matters worse, aluminum foil is a lot heavier than cling wrap: Foil typically clocks in at about 3.8 grams per square foot; cling wrap, just 1.7 grams.

What does that all add up to? To answer that, the Lantern turned to COMPASS, a nifty software tool from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition that allows you to compare the environmental impacts of different packaging materials, from manufacture to disposal. The Lantern decided to compare 1 square foot of aluminum foil and 1 square foot of LDPE cling wrap—about as much as you might use to cover a bowl of leftover pasta before sticking it in your fridge.

Aluminum foil was the loser in nearly all the metrics COMPASS assesses (PDF), including fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, human health impacts, aquatic toxicity, and potential for eutrophication (a kind of water pollution, caused by excessive nutrients, that can lead to fish-killing algal blooms).

However, there are ways that foil can narrow those gaps. Reuse is one straightforward option. According to COMPASS, if you use one piece of foil three times, it will contribute less aquatic toxicity than using three pieces of LDPE, and it just about matches the plastic on fossil-fuel usage and eutrophication. You’d have to use that foil six times, however, before the greenhouse gas emissions and human health impacts were comparable as well.

Foil made with recycled aluminum can reduce the impactsassociated with manufacturing. Aluminum—unlike plastic or paper—can be recycled forever. According to one industry estimate, household foil already includes between 25 percent to 40 percent pre-consumer recycled material—i.e., factory scraps and trimmings—with the rest coming from freshly mined, virgin metal. The Lantern knows of two companies, Reynolds and If You Care, that make foil with what’s billed as “100 percent recycled content.” In Reynolds’ case, that content is a fluctuating mix of pre-consumer and post-consumer material (i.e., metal that’s already had a life as a can or a pot). If You Care foil contains only pre-consumer material.

Figuring out how much energy and emissions you’d actually save with these products is hard, though, because the environmental credits for pre-consumer material can be tricky to calculate. The benefits of recycling depend on the idea that waste is being diverted away from landfills and then used in place of virgin material. But most factories don’t throw away their unwanted aluminum scraps: They sell them to other manufacturers or back to their suppliers. Since those scraps aren’t likely to get “lost” in the solid waste stream, should they really count as recovered material? Some analysts say yes, some say no. (Both Reynolds and If You Care report significant energy savings with their products, based on calculations that follow the first methodology—i.e., treating pre-consumer material the same as post-consumer material.)

So recycled foil is probably a better choice than traditional foil of the same weight—provided, of course, that it works as well (though it is likely to be more expensive). Because no matter what you use to cover your leftovers, the important thing is that the food stays fresh and tasty (PDF). After all, there’s no point in using disposable packaging of any kind if you’re just going to throw away the food that’s wrapped inside.

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.