Yoga as an Adjunct in Acupuncture Care

Anne Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Chinese Herbs, Chinese Medicine, Herbs, Yoga Leave a Comment

yoga with ritualhealth.com Have I failed to mention the importance of yoga recently? Let me remedy that.

Yoga.

Yoga.

Yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga.

Because yoga.

This picture?  That’s the view from my favorite place in the house. I try to practice what I preach. Full disclosure: it doesn’t work when it comes to chocolate or cheese.

Fine. Or red wine.

I’ve got a patient who is coming in to the acupuncture clinic with chronic pain due to an old sports injury. Only, turns out it isn’t really “pain.” It’s more like a weird sensation: different on one side versus the other. It’s vague and annoying and just “not right.” Accompanying symptoms include cold patches on his body that he hadn’t really noticed in the past. It is not responding to well to other alternative treatments and the MDs say everything looks fine structurally and neurologically.

He’s here for acupuncture, so I treat him with that. He goes deep in his sessions and feels great afterwards. I give him a classical Chinese herbal formula and in only one week, his tongue changes so dramatically it is like day and night. It’s so different, I shake his hand and say, “Nice to finally meet you!”

We’re making good progress, but he really needs yoga as supportive care for his acupuncture treatments. I’d like to see him activating those channels on his own. The structures need strength, they need work. I gave him some yoga postures that are pretty specific to his individual case and very old skool in style. These will directly address his concern, but isn’t there a lesson here for all of us?

Western mind: An important benefit of yoga is increased blood circulation and range of motion. This translates as literally delivering additional nutrition and waste removal into areas of chronic injury/pain. Yoga is not just stretching. We’re talking about getting in and disrupting a stuck neurological pattern and strengthening musculature while lengthening it. (We’re also working with the mind and the breath, therefore neurological and endocrinological function is affected.) Unlike many exercise and weight-lifting regimens, yoga gets into the deeper muscle layers to target tiny supporting muscles and integrate them with the bigger beefier muscles closer to the superficies.

Traditional Chinese Medicine mind: Yoga breaks up stagnation and regulates qi and blood. Stagnation is a part of so many injuries, accompanying both excess and deficient type root disorders. It supports acupuncture in that it helps harmonize the channels. It is easier to get lasting results from acupuncture when the tissues are vital and *strong.*

Ayurvedic mind: Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences. Doshic disturbances directly affect the channels, resulting in pathology. Many traditional yogic sequences are geared toward working with specific imbalances. Each of us has all three doshas, but it is great to know which yoga postures to emphasize according to our own constitution, the season and the time of day.

Ok, enough of this. I gotta go do some yoga

Joint Healing Bone Broth

Anne Chinese Herbs, Chinese Medicine, Herbs, Recipes Leave a Comment

Du Zhong & Niu Xi (Chuan)A really nice Guy came into clinic today presenting with a sports injury to the knee. He was on crutches and though the pain and swelling is down, he still feels the need to baby the knee. We needled him up nicely with acutpuncture to get things working again, but we wanted to send home more support in the form of herbs.

Sometimes joint injuries stall out in their healing if the resources are lacking in the blood for thorough physical repair. This recipe could be useful for addressing with a sports injury. It is frequently used in China in the elder population as a broth base for soups or side broth to accompany meals (usually with just the Du Zhong) for a week every month or so to help keep the back strong and limber and offset aging.

Sans herbs, the procedure listed below is an excellent and simple way to make broth cheaply at home. This method maximizes the nutritional content of the bones and will allow you to extract collagen and minerals from the bone, making a very absorbable broth. Swap out these herbs for whatever is indicated for your condition. Have fun!

Joint Healing Bone Broth
9g Du Zhong
9g Niu Xi
1/2 lb pork spine or other joints (cut up by butcher to reveal marrow and internal aspect of the bone tissue)
1/2 cup white wine or sake
3-4 large slices of ginger
water
salt

Rinse bones and place in cold water in a medium to large pot. Bring up to heat, avoiding a full rolling boil. Skim impurities that rise to the surface at this point. Add ginger and white wine, cooking 4-6 hours at a bare simmer or less. Cook in herbs for the last 2 hours. Strain and salt to taste. Take 1/2-1 cup (depending on how concentrated your result) as side broth with meals, 2x/day for 7 days.

Depending on the cut of bone you use, there may be a thick layer of fat that rises to the top and solidifies upon refrigeration. This can be spooned off and used in in your other cooking. 

(Thanks, Dr. Zhi-Bin ‘Benny’ Zhang, Liu Ming, Nam Singh, David Caruso-Radin)

Summer Living

Anne Chinese Medicine Leave a Comment

SummerThe Chinese medical classic Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen 2 advises us in our conduct specific to the summer season:
The three months of summer…denote opulence and blossoming. The qi of the heaven and earth interact and the myriad beings bloom and bear fruit. Go to rest late at night and rise early. Never get enough of the sun. Let the mind have no anger. Stimulate beauty and have your elegance perfected. Cause the qi to flow away, as if that what you loved were located outside. This corresponds with the qi of summer and it is the Way to nourish growth. Opposing it harms the heart.

“Opulence and blossoming” is what is reflected in the environment around us in summer seasons; our actions should be in accordance with this.

In summer, Chinese medicine advises that our daily habits should shift slightly with the season. Summer, being more yang, expanding, more outer, more bright inspires our actions and attitude to follow suit. With extra daylight, we rise a little earlier, go to bed a little later. We spend more time out to enjoy the sun. The garden is in bloom, so we relax outside and enjoy the environment, admire the beauty. The Nei Jing gives us a medical prescription to relish in it.

Summer2But what if we have an underlying deficient yin condition already causing heat, dryness or overactivity? What if we have constitutionally excess yang problems manifesting as headache, insomnia, or irritability?

This is part of “having our elegance perfected” and “letting the mind have no anger.” Keep it flowing and don’t overdo it in the heat and sun. Enjoy the “opulence and blossoming” of the summer, but please protect the yin!

(Thanks Liu Ming and Emmie Zhu!)

Postpartum Care: Placenta Preparation

Anne Health, Perinatal Leave a Comment

Human placenta, or Zĭ Hé Chē, has been in the Chinese material medica for thousands of years and is excellent for postpartum care. Translated as ‘purple river vehicle,’ it is categorized as a substance which tonifies yang. Its nature is warming, its tastes, sweet and salty. It enters the liver, lung and kidney channels and tonifies jing, qi, blood, yin and yang and tonifies the blood.

Zĭ Hé Chē is well-known for its restorative function. The obvious application is recovery from childbirth, in which a woman would consume her own placenta to regain her strength, manage hormonal changes and promote lactation.

Many mammals consume their own placentas raw directly after birth. In Chinese medicine, the placenta is first lightly steamed, then sliced thin and dehydrated. When fully dry, it is ground into powder and encapsulated. Alternatively, steamed and sliced placenta can be tinctured in Everclear. This makes it more suitable for longterm storage, in which case a mother can preserve her placenta to be used for menopause or for herself or her children in the event of recovery from serious illness. Finally, some women choose to

cook their placenta into broth to enjoy as a side soup with meals. There are many recipes. I’ve heard of placenta broth, jerky, lasagna, ragu and roast placenta with onions.

Due to its warming, potent nature, caution when using Zĭ Hé Chē in cases of heat and longterm. With the current craze in raw foodism,encapsulating raw placenta has become fashionable. Be aware that consuming raw (even raw dehydrated) placenta would have a more cooling energetic, not typically what a woman’s GI tract needs immediately postpartum.

Preparations: Process placenta immediately after the birth, preferably fresh, never frozen. Best to take precautions from blood-borne illness when working with human placenta.

Encapsulation:
This method is not as lasting as tincture, but preserves the heavy, moist, gooey, yin-essence better.

1. Wash placenta well under running water until the water runs clean and there is no more blood. Be sure to turn the sac inside-out to expose the side of the placenta that was attached to the uterus to remove coagulated blood. It is most convenient to work with to wrap it back up in the sac before cooking.
2. Layer sliced ginger in the bottom of a pan. Add a layer of sliced lemon. These carry the practical function of elevating the placenta and keeping it from sticking while also acting as harmonizing, regulating digestive aids to balance the heavy nature of Zĭ Hé Chē. Pour in some water and bring to a simmer. Place placenta directly on the lemon, cover and steam, 10-12 minutes per side.
3. Remove placenta, allow to cool. Slice thin and arrange on parchment paper. Dehydrate at 110 for 8-14 hours, depending on thickness of slices.
4. Grind in food processor or in batches in spice grinder. Note: this is more difficult than it sounds. It is extremely hard to break down to powder and a very dusty endeavor. Not only that, but it is time-consuming. It took my kinda fancy Breville 30 minutes. Use a wet towel wrapped around the seal to catch escaping placenta dust.
5. Encapsulate!

Tincture: 
This method lasts longest. Some say you can top it off with more Everclear to keep it going, but some potency would be lost.

1. Prepare placenta as above, but do not dehydrate.
2. Place in a glass jar and cover placenta with vodka or everclear by at least one inch. Higher alcohol content will keep longer.
3. Allow to sit in a cool, dark place for at least 6 weeks.

Folk Medicine

Anne Health, Herbs, Recipes 1 Comment

Everybody’s family has a funny little quirky herbal tip, a little folk medicine connection, a trick to beat the common cold. Everybody’s.

Growing up, even my devoutly allopathically allegiant family would pour out a little hot-lemony-honey-tea-with-whiskey on occasion as a cold cure.

Ok, let’s get real: we all know that was just an excuse to open the liquor cabinet. But, they would make a fresh ginger tea for an upset tummy or throw a handful of fresh field mint in the summer iced tea.

What I’m trying to say is that even when we suspect that our culture has become hopelessly bland and homogenous and we think our cultural connection to natural wisdom is lost or gone for for good, it turns out that a connection to our cultural roots is often hiding in sneaky little herbal tricks that happen in the kitchen when you’re not feeling good.

They come in the strangest forms:

Once when I was riding out the late stages of a cold and getting a cough, Sasi introduced a particularly weird one. He hollowed out a black radish and carefully pierced a thin hole down through to the pointy tip. He set it over a jar and filled the top with raw honey. After a few hours, enough honey had trickled through which he then fed me by the spoonful to stop the cough. He claimed it was a piece of his cultural inheritance. I was sure he was pulling my leg.

Here’s another:

Last year in Russia, we were out in the wild woods mushrooming. I was in unfamiliar territory and way off trail (because how else are you going to land the mother lode of porcinis?!). I must have strayed into territory the local spirits didn’t want me or something–whatever that means–because I suddenly came down with abdominal cramping, fever and nausea. I was quickly brought home, tucked under covers on the couch and served the local medicine, tried and true: a generous double-shot of slightly warmed vodka with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Oy.

But it hurt so good.

And I recovered quickly.

Anyway, NPR just did a piece called “Horseradish Tea and Other Quirky Cold Cures.” Click “Listen to the Story” to hear the full piece. Then, come back over here and post yours!

Ayurveda & Family Health

Anne Ayurveda, Parenting Leave a Comment

Dr. Ashwin with babyThis picture shows some of Dr. Ashwin’s good work at the Ayurveda clinic in India.

I can’t say enough about the efficacy and safety of Ayurvedic herbalism for enhancing family health and infant care. Kids can benefit from the gentle approach to boost the body’s natural systems in acute and chronic concerns. This baby was recovering from a fever which turned into a lingering cough. She is doing very well now. Her parents gave her just a few days of safe herbs at home.

Back in America at the clinic, in addition to general health we also work a lot with families, too. We have great strategies for enhancing prenatal health all the way through the postpartum period, plus helping babies. We do a lot of education to help families assist their kids through colds and fevers.

It’s out there: a natural system to lean on when you want to work with the body’s innate healing mechanisms. It is just about trusting the body and weaving holistic protocols into ones life. What better gift can we give our children but helping them understand that they are a part of nature by helping them to understand how to trust the body and go with nature.

Pathya – n. healthy stuff

Anne Ayurveda Leave a Comment

naga stoneSo fun to look at Ayurveda in context: India!

It’s not my first time here, but I can’t help but be wow-ed again and again. Everything is a ritual ceremony. The cows in the street like clockwork–the clanging of bells at dawn, midday, dusk–even the treatment table for oil massage is shaped like a yoni in the temple. You can see that Ayurveda recognizes the interconnection of all things. It gently teaches us that the mental constructs we hold affect our health the just as food we eat.

In fact, when Vagbhata, author of the classical text I’m studying, wants to remind us to eat right and take care of ourselves, he tells us poetically so as to emphasize the point. He tells us to imbibe of only that which is pathya — meaning, that which is healthy, or ‘suitable’–and avoid apathya— unhealthy stimuli. Just prior to this, he’s been talking about food and drinks, so the reader knows that’s what he means.  Still, Vagbhata chooses these beautiful words, ‘pathya’ and ‘apathya’, when he could have simply said ‘foodstuffs’.

ayurveda treatment tableWith two words, Vagbhata broadens our idea of what we consume, taking it beyond the gross level. In asking that our choices be ‘suitable’, he gives us a picture of nourishment beyond a rulebook of right and wrong. Instead, he wants us to contemplate our individual needs, the season, place, even our personal preference. He wants us to investigate what we eat with our minds and hearts as well as our tongues, but he graciously leaves it up to us to draw the lines outward from there without inserting a limited dogma.

It is as if he joyously proclaims: Do healthy stuff! Do it your own way! (Just, y’know, listen honestly and carefully to nature an’ all.)

What are we eating? At home, at work? What are we eating for pleasure? Television, radio, the book on our nightstand are consumed. Relationships, power dynamics, the feeling of the dinnertime conversation, all must be digested. Every sensory stimulation in our daily routine makes up our diet, our minds, our lives.

Ayurveda asks us to live in accord with Nature and points us toward self-reflection, but it does so in the most spacious and gentle way. It shows us a picture of personal health integrating activities body, speech and mind, while its technical theory offers a seamless connection between practical application and higher philosophy. In this way, Ayurveda is truly holistic, serving anyone who recognizes their basic identity as a part of the web of life.

India still!

Anne Ayurveda, Health Leave a Comment

IndiaI’m still in India, folks. I’ve been here since January, but I haven’t forgotten you!

Studying Ayurveda again is rich. There’s my teacher Dr. Ashwin. There’s the 1,400 year old Sanskrit text I am plodding through. Then, the inpatient AND outpatient Ayurveda clinics. I’m watching the good doctor treat disease with great effectiveness using theory developed and refined literally thousands of years ago.

I’m seeing acute as well as chronic disorders: hypertension, diabetes, asthma, migraines, and country stuff like thorns in eyeballs, cuts to the bone, falls from great heights. All cared for using natural, holistic methods.

How beautiful! The tradition of Ayurveda is simply unparalleled. All of this against the backdrop of India …which shouldn’t matter, of course, but makes it so fun.

Ayurveda is transferable to anyone, anywhere, in any culture. Dr. Ashwin has highlighted the point, telling me, “Summer is summer here, and summer is summer there. We may look different, but on the inside, we are all the same.”

Ayurveda is Ayurveda in India, at home or wherever we may find ourselves. It is not a Hindu thing. At its root, it is not even a vegetarian thing (unless of course a person requires it for his constitution, imbalance, whatever). Ayurveda is not hocus-pocus faith healing, either. It is an ancient, yet rigorous science based on unchanging principles of Nature employed with a sophistication that boggles the mind. That’s how Dr. Ashwin is able to successfully treat complicated disorders, even those which allopathic medicine cannot help.

I look forward to sharing more soon!

Milk Thistle & Sesame Gomasio Furikake

Anne Health, Herbs, Recipes 2 Comments

Gomasio FurikakeGomasio is a condiment comprised of toasted sesame seeds and salt. Furikake means “to sprinkle” in Japanese and refers to condiments like gomasio, usually including seaweeds. Here, we’ve got variation on a classic theme. After a suggestion by Michael Tierra, I added some secret herbal liver-boosting magic: milk thistle seeds.

Milk thistle is well-known as a wonder herb for all ailments of the liver. It is safe for general use as a basic liver tonic, though it is specifically indicated in cases of hepatitis, jaundice, cirrhosis and liver congestion. It helps regenerate the liver and even reduces fat deposits on the organ. If you do anything that may be considered taxing to the liver–live in a polluted environment, eat processed, fried or fatty foods, drink alcohol, etc–then milk thistle is a good, safe herb to know.

On top of that, milk thistle grows practically everywhere. If you are a die-hard, you could probably don some heavy-duty gloves and go harvest some for yourself. Me? Nettle is one thing (check out my nettle noodles), but milk thistle? Ouch.

This version of Furikake is an enjoyable way to boost liver function. My Ayurveda teacher, Dharmanidhi, used to say, “Your liver is you.” Which is funny, come to think of it, because my Chinese Medicine teacher used to say, “Your spine is you.” I see both perspectives and you have to decide what YOU are!

Do something nice for your liver on a daily basis. The liver likes bitter. in Ayurveda. Drop bitter watercress into your soup. Hide a pinch of turmeric in your meal or chai. Switch out coffee for bitter green tea. Simply eat yummy bitter greens regularly. But, I like to make this Gomasio Furikake recipe because it is always around to liven up a less-than inspiring meal while reminding me to think about the wellbeing of my largest internal organ.

This liver-supporting version of Furikake has as many uses as you have imagination for it: a topping for rice, baked on fish with a layer or miso paste, or popcorn.

My favorite: top a batch of homemade fresh french fries. Uh, how’s that for taking care of the liver? Ha!

Milk Thistle & Sesame Gomasio Furikake

.5 oz wild nori (or seaweed of your choice)
1 1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup milk thistle seeds
1/4 cup salt

Preheat the oven to 300 and arrange nori flat on a cookie sheet. Cook until it looks toasty, about 10-15 minutes or when it looks done to you. Pulse in a spice grinder.

While nori cooks, dry-roast sesame seeds in a skillet over medium-high heat, turning frequently. They are ready when they are fragrant and slightly darkened. Allow to cool.

Pulse milk thistle seeds in grinder until very small. The outer portion of the seed is rather course must be broken down. The medicinal component of the herb is not usable by the body unless is is ground well, otherwise the body sees it as just roughage.

Combine toasted, ground seaweed, toasted sesame and ground milk thistle with salt in a medium bowl. Take care when filling spice jars that the salt is heaviest ingredient and tends to fall to the bottom while seaweed rises to the top.

Store in jars with tight-fitting lids and consume within a month or two for best results. Unless you are putting a shaker on the table that will be eaten quickly, store in a cool, dark place as all seeds and oils tend to become rancid in extended storage.

Neti: One Pot to Rule Them All

Anne Ayurveda, Yoga 4 Comments

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people recently remembering the following post, originally released in April, 2010. Then, a friend sent this youtube video (warning: funny) and couldn’t resist reposting.

Last week, I went to a party and this guy and I got into a lively conversation about…neti. This is the yogic practice where you run a mild, warm saline solution into one nostril and out the other using a little neti pot. Yes, at a party.

It’s Berkeley, people.

Anyway, somehow I started to wax on about my newly acquired giant neti pot which I got about 6 months ago and how much the larger size neti pot has changed my life. I mean it. Changed. My. Life. I swear by this thing. The wild part is, he responded with equal enthusiasm! He had recently gotten the big kind, too, and couldn’t believe the difference. I’m not alone on this one.

Again, it’s Berkeley, people.

I’ve been using neti pots for years. I mostly used what I had access to: cute little ceramic numbers from the generic yoga studio or health food store that hold maybe a cup or two of water. This small amount of water, split between both nostrils, makes for a paltry jala neti experience. Still, even with the tiny pot, I was pretty excited about jala neti when first discovered it and I practiced it regularly for a time. I was impressed with the results. I even gave my family members little hand-thrown ceramic neti pots at the holidays. Poor guys.

Enter the new giant neti pot. I got it about 6 months ago for my birthday and it has been an amazingly different experience. The big neti is where it’s at. I even took a picture. That’s big neti across the table from me at a candlelight dinner. As you can see, it’s getting pretty serious between us.

It’s made by healthandyoga.com and I even tried to get a discount code for y’all, but I have been reticent about making this forum commercial in any way, even if it saves YOU money. So, just submit a comment here or on fb if you want me to do it to save you 15% or something. (UPDATE: DUE TO READER RESPONSE, THERE IS A DISCOUNT CODE HERE.)

Anyway, this pot. I feel like I want to tell you guys about this pot the way I used to want to tell a bestie about a new boy I’ve met. This neti? I mean, wow. Shiny and nice and new, but what it comes down to is that it’s… big. Apparently, size matters.

And it can go again and again and again. I usually fill it twice in a session–once for each side. It’s incredible.

Ok, stopping now.

[Note: talk to a qualified yoga instructor if you are interested in starting a jala neti practice. Despite what you’ll read on the internet, it *is* a practice, not something to take up now and then when you’re feeling congested. It does so much more than ‘clean the sinuses’ or whatever they say. And, if you’re a renegade and are gonna watch youtube and try it anyway, please please PLEASE use good, filtered and boiled water and dry your nasal passages gently and thoroughly afterward. Your head will thank you.]